Peter’s Retro Reviews: Good Guys Wear Black (1978)

November 11, 2013

GGWB Posterby Peter Nielsen

”Everything went wrong by the numbers… and that takes planning.”

It’s been a while since we last talked about an action-flick, so I thought it was time to return to that particular genre. At least this week! I have a soft spot for this type of action-flick from the late 70’s or the 80’s and since I also, as most of you know, have a soft spot for Chuck Norris, I thought it appropriate to bring back that mustachioed, roundhouse-kicking martial arts hero into the spotlight again.

I’m not sure when I first watched this one, but it must have been sometime in the mid 80’s or so. What I am sure about though, is that I watched it together with my best friend Michael (lives in England, remember?), because as I’ve pointed out before, we rented a crap ton of these movies in our teens. Anything starring Mr. Norris was a sure thing in our book

and although they weren’t all equally good, I don’t think we were ever outright disappointed. I mean, how could we be? It was Chuck Norris, for Pete’s sake!

The slimy Senator Conrad Morgan

The slimy Senator Conrad Morgan

Good Guys Wear Black opens in Paris, France in 1973 where U.S. Senator Conrad Morgan is negotiating terms on a deal with a delegate from North Vietnam, to release American P.O.W.’s, still imprisoned in Vietnam. In exchange for those, Morgan is to “sacrifice” certain CIA operatives.

Major John T. Booker and his elite army unit, the Black Tigers, are chosen to be the sacrificial lambs, so to speak. The 12 men are sent into the jungle under the pretence that they are to free American prisoners held in a camp. They don’t know that they’ve been set up, but when things go horribly wrong, Booker start to suspect that they are. (See above quote!) Only five of them make it out alive!

Ass-kicking in progress!

Ass-kicking in progress!

Senator Morgan is played by James Franciscus from Beneath the Planet of the Apes and City on Fire, to name a few, and he does a pretty good job here. Morgan is a slimy and ruthless bastard who doesn’t care who he steps on to get to the top.

John T. Booker is of course played by Mr. Norris (Firewalker, The Octagon) in what was only his third “major” movie. The first was Slaughter in San Fransisco and the second was Breaker! Breaker! which I’ve already covered here on Forgotten Flix. Before that he’d only had smaller “fighting” parts in movies like The Way of the Dragon with Bruce Lee or The Wrecking Crew starring Dean Martin. The latter one was the big screen debut of Mr. Norris.

Let’s jump ahead 5 years, shall we? When we next see John T. Booker he’s in a Porsche, speeding around on a race-car track, which is now his new hobby. He’s also a Professor of Political Science at UCLA and at one of his lectures he meets a reporter named Margaret, who starts asking a lot of questions about what happened 5 years ago. She too suspects that they were set up! It seems that she’s apparently had access to

The lovely Anne Archer

The lovely Anne Archer

information that she shouldn’t have had. Booker tells her that he’s put all of that behind him and that he really doesn’t want to talk about it.In the role of Margaret we see the Academy Award nominee, Anne Archer, in an early role. You might recognize her from Fatal Attraction and Raise the Titanic to name a couple of titles.

One morning Booker is contacted by Murray Saunders, an agent working for the CIA, who tells him that someone has started picking off the few remaining men in his former unit. It now becomes a race against time before the assassins finally gets to Booker. He and Margaret, aided by Saunders, start poking around and discover a political cover-up that goes more or less all the way to the top in Washington. What the people in Washington didn’t count on was that… “Chuck Norris is John T. Booker and Booker is fighting back!”

Someone's getting a mouthful of foot very soon!

Someone’s getting a mouthful of foot very soon!

The plot in Good Guys Wear Black is quite good and I won’t go further into it here. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out more! It’s a well-written one, directed by Ted Post, who’s also done Hang ‘Em High and Magnum Force.

The cast does ok and the acting is actually not that bad. It’s not top notch, of course, but would you really expect that from this type of movie anyway? Anne Archer, James Franciscus and Lloyd Haynes are all good actors and Chuck Norris is Chuck Norris, so it all evens out in the end. No, all kidding aside, even Mr. Norris does ok!

Lloyd Haynes, who plays Saunders, has done a lot of TV-work including parts on shows like The Green Hornet, Batman, The Fugitive and Room 222 and in a small role as a doorman in Good Guys Wear Black we find an actor with more than 240 credits to his name, Mr. Jim Backus. He was the voice of Mr. Magoo in countless cartoons and he also played Thurston Howell III on a little show called Gilligan’s Island.

If there’s one gripe I have with this movie, it’s the fact that as far as it being an action flick… it’s a bit “talky”, you know? I would have wanted a little more action… a little more ass-kicking dished out by Mr. Norris. What action is there is great, but I would have wanted more, that’s all. The dialogue is good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a little too much… But don’t let that discourage you from watching the movie, though, because it’s not at all a bad one!

It has a great classic 70’s musical score too, which I enjoyed quite a bit!

So, my friends… that’s all I have for you this week! Until next time, be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

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