Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 13th, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: Canada / UK, 1978
Director: Martyn Burke
Writers: Martyn Burke, Cliff Osmond
Cast: Eugene Amodeo, Harvey Atkin, Dick Cavett, Jon Granik, David Hemmings, Barry Morse, Peter O’Toole, Donald Pleasence, Gary Reineke, Eli Rill, Alan Rosenthal, Marcella Saint-Amant, August Schellenberg, Chuck Shamata, George Touliatos, Alberta Watson
DVD released: February 23rd, 2010
Approximate running time: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Scorpion Releasing
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
The plot for Power Play centers around a group of idealistic military officers, who have become unhappy with the direction that their leadership has taken their country. The narrative picks up steam, the moment that the military officers start to put their plan of overthrowing the government into motion. The tension filled narrative is superbly realized with the bulk of the film revolving around the cat and mouse game of keeping their coup d’état a secret until the moment they are ready to strike. The military officers main obstacle along the way are a secret police organization that bears a striking resemblance to the Nazi Gestapo.
There are many elements in this film like government corruption, acts of terrorism, improvised explosive devices and the aforementioned secret police organization. That are just as relevant and potent now, as they were when this film was made. Also what makes everything is this feel all the more real. Is the way in which the film cleverly never establishes where everything is taking place. The events of which take place in this film are universal and could easily happen anyway.
Power Play was directed by Martyn Burke, whose background in documentary filmmaking lends itself perfectly to the visual style present throughout Power Play. His limited filmography includes the following films The Clown Murders, The Last Chase, Pirates of Silicon Valley and Avenging Angelo. Martyn Burke based his screenplay on Edward Luttwak’s “Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook”. Another area where this film excels is its editing which inter-cut’s shots that are in direct contrast of each other to maximize effect. One shot in particular involves a teenage girl whose parents are friends with one of the military officer’s planning the coup d’état. This scene cuts between her being tortured and this military officer watching over his own daughter who has just gone to bed. In the scene preceding this scene the military officer visited this teenage girl who had been previously arrested and promised her that he would get her out of jail.
Without a doubt this film’s greatest asset is its cast which includes Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia), Donald Pleasence (Halloween), David Hemmings (Blow-Up) and Barry Morse (The Fugitive, T.V. Series). The film’s standout performance comes from Donald Pleasence who gives a chilling realized performance as Blair, the head of secret police organization. Another performance of note is Peter O’Toole is cast in the role of Colonel Zeller, an enigmatic character who plays a pivotal role in the outcome of the coup d’état.
Scorpion Releasing presents Power Play in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. This transfer has been flagged for progressive playback. There are no problems with compression and print debris is minimal. Colors and black levels fare well. Details look crisp throughout.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. The audio sounds clear and balanced with the special effects (gunshots, explosions) benefiting the most on this audio mix.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (3 minutes 23 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), on camera interviews with, actor George Touliatos (3 minutes 24 seconds – 1.33:1 ‘full frame’ aspect ratio) and director Martyn Burke (15 minutes 22 seconds – 1.33:1 ‘full frame’ aspect ratio). George Touliatos while brief it does feature a few interesting stories Donald Pleasence. The main extra included with this release is an audio commentary with Martyn Burke. The interview and audio commentary Martyn Burke contains some of the same information. The two extras with Martyn Burke give a thorough overview about how the film came about, casting and production related stories. Rounding out the extras are trailers for other titles that are currently available or planned future releases from Scorpion Releasing. Overall Power Play gets a solid DVD release from Scorpion Releasing that is highlighted by a informative audio commentary with Martyn Burke.