RIP Rod Taylor! Darker Than Amber! Film Noir’s Legendary Fight Scene! A Brutal Hidden Gem!

rod-taylor RIP

RIP Rod Taylor!

He was a great character Actor best known for his role in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”…

RIP Rod Taylor

But he was so much more than that! Rod Taylor passed away at the age of 84, and he leaves behind a number of great films…you can find out more about them, but I want to focus on a classic, brutal thriller with one of Hollywood’s most legendary fight scenes – and it has been forgotten to time!

darker than amber

Looking for some classic kicks? Then it’s time to discover a “hidden” gem of a film – one of Rod Taylor’s best roles ever!

darker than amber

Behold “Darker Than Amber!”

If you like great film noir, moody crime thrillers and brutal, tightly directed action scenes, then this is the movie for you!

“Darker Than Amber” might just be the most undiscovered film of the early 70’s…

The late Author John D. MacDonald wrote many bestsellers, but he was also known for his iconic detective, Travis McGee and his “color-title” series – every book had a color in the title.

darker than amber novel

“DARKER THAN AMBER” isn’t the first McGee adventure (that’s The “Deep Blue Good-Bye”, and that’s where serious new readers should begin), but it is one of the best. Perhaps a bit “darker” than many of the 20 other McGee novels, AMBER isn’t for faint hearts; but it also isn’t merely excessive violence-for-violence-sake, either.

Travis McGee – The New James Bond!

The huge success of the books meant it was time to turn the McGee novels into a movie – and the plan was to create a big action movie franchise – like what happened with James Bond.


Rod Taylor was cast as McGee – he was, at the time, a well-known Actor, having been in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, and was a rising star…the film was directed by Robert Clouse, who went on to helm the classic Bruce Lee action movie “Enter The Dragon”…all signs pointed to a big big hit…


Perhaps “Too” Dark?

“Darker Than Amber” received strong reviews, but to no avail: this movie bombed at the box office – killing any chance for a series. What was called at the time a “brutal gem” might have been the cause of its undoing…

“Darker Than Amber” is a moody, well-acted thriller. It is brutal…and is known for its legendary fight sequence. But while that sequence is lauded as one of the most brutal and “real” fights on screen, that “rawness” may have contributed to the film’s demise…

“Darker than Amber” was sold, as you can see by the various posters, as a brutal fight movie – but it’s much more than that…still, the advertising sold one thing only, and that “brutality” just didn’t resonate with audiences at the time…when in fact, it had a strong love story as well, which was ignored in the advertising…

Rod Taylor was a very popular actor who appeared in over 50 films, best known for his roles in the sci-fi film “The Time Machine”, as well as “The Birds.” He was very popular with women, but the film was sold exclusively to men.

British sex kitten Suzy Kendall co-starred. She was certainly cast to appeal to that male demographic, but she was also a popular actress at the time as well…but again, look at the advertising:


A Forgotten Gem…

This is a great crime drama/film noir, full of smart writing, good acting, and intense action…but it was overlooked by audiences, who were perhaps turned off by its graphic violence – very brutal for the time….

“Darker than Amber” was the last film made by actress Jane Russell, who plays a neighboring boat owner who likes to party…a funny little role for this screen legend, and another example of the layers within the film that made it more than just an action thriller…

“Darker Than Amber” is almost impossible to find: I got a copy from a website that specializes in obscure films…

Darker Than Amber

One last fact: movie “tough guy” William Smith co-starred in the film, and Smith’s physical brawn plays into the movie’s climactic finale…Smith had a long career in film as a character Actor, taking advantage of his size and charisma…which is on full display here…

Here’s a great fun fact thanks to IMDB: Arrow created a “special” shirt design called “The McGee” for Taylor to wear. When the movie flopped, so did the shirt.

Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!

Back to the legendary fight scene. William Smith attacks Travis McGee on a cruise ship. With the cameras rolling, one actor accidentally struck the other (no one has ever revealed who struck the first real blow), the second threw a retaliatory punch, and a staged fight scene became a real fight, with real wounds, real lost teeth, and real blood all over their clothing. That’s right, this is real, as you are about to see…

As you can see from the poster above, it wasn’t exactly a “heart throb” look for Taylor…but they did push the bloody fight in the advertising…

Thanks to youtube, here is the climactic fight scene! It begins with the fight in the bedroom on the cruse ship, as McGee enters Suzy’s stateroom to check up on her – only to be ambushed by Smith…that fight is followed by Smith’s rampage when he sees the girl he thought he had already killed earlier in the film waiting for him…and he doesn’t take it well…

darker than amber

Whether this is the entire fight un-cut is unclear, but there are several versions on the internet that purport to be that…either way, “Darker Than Amber” has been optioned to be re-made…let’s hope they keep the action raw and brutal!

And RIP To Rod Taylor – kudos for a great career!

rod-taylor RIP

Categories: 70's Cinema, Action Films, Awards, Books / Media, Cult Movies, Exploitation films, Film Noir, Great Films, Grindhouse, Hollywood, Independent Cinema, Los Angeles, Movies, Obscure Movies, Revenge Movies, Talent/Celebrities, Uncategorized

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16 replies

  1. The best copy of Darker Than Amber i found was strangely on Youtube but is not great

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John, Great info! I had no idea. Like others, I really want to find and see this film now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I found it on a website and bought a DVD, but I think youtube now has the whole film as well…key is to get the uncut fight, which I showed the clip for – it’s a good movie that COULD have been a great one, and I think some big star is reviving the character – forget who but like a Leonardo type…we’ll see!


  3. I remember a William Smith interview where he talked about the scene and the one that followed outside of the ship where Rod uses a board of wood to bring him down. He said that the Aussie leading man purposely “missed” the padding on his leg that day. To this day, Smith says he still can feel the “bump” on the bone that resulted. Yes, one of the most brutal fights ever “staged” for a feature film. Great one to highlight, John.


  4. I would like to see this, if only for Jane Russel’s last performance. Thanks for the introduction, John.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  5. I wish I could find a good copy. Being a Travis McGee fan and having read all his books more than three times, this movie would complete my collection.



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