Conrad couldn’t quite crack the code of silver-screen stardom, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Proving it is a nifty double-feature DVD from Inception Media Group that pairs 1975’s Live a Little, Steal a Lot with 1977’s Sudden Death.
Also known as Murph the Surf — a title retained by this print — Live a Little is a fun little heist film. Or at least it is until it takes an odd shift in tone that half-plays like a relationship drama between the two male leads. That’s Conrad and Don Stroud (The Amityville Horror) as Allan Kuhn and Jack Murphy, respectively — real-life Miami playboys who steal a shinola-load of jewels from the Museum of Natural History, which is pretty easy to do if you undo a window lock just prior to closing time.
When they’re not swiping gems — including the “Star of India,” which looks like little more than a green marble — they’re tearing through lovely ladies. Murphy’s making it with a cute blonde (Knots Landing resident Donna Mills) who Allan carries a torch for and pleads for his pal to “let me know when you’re done with her.” That’s kind of icky, but it’s a triangle carried through from start to finish.
There’s a boat chase and some sweet Bahamas scenery, but Live a Little provides little satisfaction when it’s not depicting the duo’s crimes.
One of dozens of Filipino director Eddie Romero’s dirt-cheap thrillers lensed in his homeland, Sudden Death is handily the more entertaining of the two. Conrad is kickin’ back and livin’ the easy island life, complete with a female slave, as former CIA spook Duke Smith. He’s reluctantly drawn back into the bam-bam-pow-pow game when an entire American family is gunned down. (It’s the kind of hit ordered by one of those ’70s movie villains — you know the kind: photographed only below the neck so his identity is concealed. Initially, our clues are that he wears a robe and strokes a cat. Until he hurls the pussy into the air.)
This film is Conrad’s Dirty Harry. He acts tougher than tough, and Duke’s hobbies appear to be cursing (“Shit, woman”) and cold-blooded shooting. At one point, he orders a local, “Go spit in his face and kick him in the balls.” Later, he tells another guy, “Son, if you lie to me, I”m gonna spit in your face and kick you in the balls.” So at least the guy is consistent.
It’s a hoot, full of dialogue that’s not only offensive, but doesn’t make a lick of sense now, and probably didn’t then, i.e. “Wow. Look at those Salvation Army faggots.” In one party scene, an older gentleman is caught romancing a sheep. You won’t believe the ending. Or maybe you will. Suffice to say, it spits in your face and kicks you in the balls. While playing circus music. —Rod Lott