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(aka "The Hit Man" or "Peace is Hell")


directed by Fred Williamson
USA 1976


Kicked out of the service for punching his commanding officer, disgraced former football star/Vietnam war hero Johnny Barrows (Fred Williamson). On his first night back in L.A., he gets mugged and then arrested and harassed by cops. Determined to make an honest living, Johnny repeatedly refuses the job offers of mobster/former football rival Mario Racconi (Stuart Whitman) and the temptations of Mario's girl Nancy (Jenny Sherman) in favor of job hunting, soup lines, and sweeping up around a gas station for board and little pay. When the New York mobster Don Da Vince (Tony Caruso) and his sons (Mike Henry and Roddy McDowall) move in on the Racconi turf and open a flower shop as a front for dealing dope (specifically targeting black and Chicano customers), Don Racconi (Luther Adler) tries to put a stop to it. When the Da Vinces take out Racconi and critically injure Mario, he appeals to Johnny to wipe out the Da Vinces in exchange for $100,000 and a prime piece of land (as well as Nancy who is either double crossing him or duping the Da Vinces).

Directed and starring Williamson, MEAN JOHNNY BARROWS is atypical of its genre in its slow, measured pacing that full fleshes out Johnny's civilian life (the working title of the film was PEACE IS HELL) - although the intercut Racconi and Da Vince expository scenes are fairly bland and routine - and Williamson does not pick up a gun until an hour into the film (but there's still time for some martial arts action as well). Williamson's direction of many scenes in long takes is mostly successful although but the action scenes suffer from enervated editing. The musical accompaniment (including a recurring theme song) by Gordon Staples and the String Thing is one of the film's successful elements along with Williamson's ability to assemble an eclectic cast (including John Lamotta, R.G. Armstrong and an amusing cameo by Elliot Gould and his P.R. rep) and get a fair amount of production value without permits.

Eric Cotenas


Theatrical Release: January 1976 (USA)

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DVD Review: Code Red (Fred Williamson Signature Collection Vol.) - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Code Red

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:35:03

2.34:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.65 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono)
Subtitles None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Code Red

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.34:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by actor/director Fred Williamson moderated by Scott Spiegel
• HAMMER TIME: Interview with Fred Williamson (4:3; 19:05)
• Theatrical Trailer (4:3; 1:43)
• Trailers for DEATH JOURNEY (4:3; 2:06), NO WAY BACK (4;3; 2:39), STIGMA (16:9; 1:29),
• FAMILY HONOR (4:3; 1:01), CHANGES (16:9; 2:50), CHALLENGE THE DRAGON (4:3; 2:06)
• BRUTE CORPS (16:9; 1:57), CUT YOUR PURPLE HEART OUT (4:3; 3:19), THE VISITOR (4:3; 3:15),
• CHOKE CANYON (16:9; 2:01), THE STATUE (16:9; 2:27), DERBY (16:9; 2:09),

DVD Release Date: March 16th, 2010

Chapters 13



Mastered from the original negative, MEAN JOHNNY BARROWS is presented on DVD in a progressive, anamorphic, dual-layer transfer that has bits of damage but looks quite pleasing throughout. It must certainly blow the multitude of PD releases out of the water including some budget double bills with Williamson's DEATH JOURNEY (which is also getting the special edition treatment from Code Red) and runs the complete 95 minutes (one of the moderators mentions that VHS versions have run as short as 84 minutes which Williamson attributes to shortening for multiple film billings).

Among the tidbits revealed in the commentary is the fact that the Vietnam scenes were shot in Malibu and that co-star Roddy McDowall was accessible because he and Williamson had the same agent and Elliot Gould granted a free half-hour to play his improvised cameo. The moderators mention that before they were able to get an interview with supporting actor Leon Isaac but there is no such interview present here. A video interview with Williamson, a VHS-sourced trailer, and trailers for other Code Red releases (including DEATH JOURNEY which is coming out at the same time as this release and another Williamson outing NO WAY OUT) round out the extras. No scene selection menu is included but the film is encoded with 13 chapters.

 - Eric Cotenas


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Code Red

Region 0 - NTSC


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