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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A Gem Cut With Stars!

Author: ( from North Hollywood, CA
7 March 2002

I was a dumb 15 year-old kid when this movie was aired and, boy, did it ever impress me. Not only was it a mind-tripper at the time as far as plot and action, but this piece of art introduced me to Darren McGavin, treated me with the likes of James Whitmore, Mako and Broderick Crawford, and presented future biggies Sam Elliot and Adolph Caesar (who knew?!) Also appearing is the great Joe Bernard, supporting actor icon. Neat twists throughout the flick and its ending just about killed me. I rate this work as essential viewing in the same vein as "Fail-Safe" and "Ice Station Zebra". Sure do wish I could feast my eyes on it again. Come to think of it, I'll bet something like this has probably already happened in our lifetime. Chilling, man!

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Where has this movie gone ?

Author: ( from miami fla
2 May 2002

I saw this movie when it originally aired in 1970, and I loved it. I also remember the trailers from the week before that centered around the weapon Gallery used (a double barreled sub-machine gun),really cool ! The idea that two countries would decide to settle their differences and avoid all out war by choosing their toughest soldier to fight it out on a deserted island was great. Sadly, both sides plot to stack the deck and keep an ace up their sleeve, a starkly realistic twist. I've been trying to get a tape of this movie for twenty years, and will gladly pay a reasonable finders fee for a copy.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Hell of a TV made war/action pic

Author: ctseeker from United States
8 June 2005

I was lucky enough to tape this movie off broadcast 20 years ago. A great basic story line and well made for a TV movie. Gallery (DM) gets nifty toys to play with from a waterhole poison kit to a dual side by side Madsen M50 submachine guns loaded with full loads and bird shot. Mako does a good job but doesn't have the high tech gizmo's that gallery has. Both sides cheat by sending in another soldier each to finish the job, with our two stars being more honorable disposing of these interlopers.

All this over a Bomb carrying satellite that crashed and the bad guys got to first and are sitting on it like a hen in the middle of the ocean.

Good bang for the buck spent. If this ever comes out on DVD I sure will get a copy. A good movie to get lost in on a lazy eve.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Great little movie

Author: mr. sardonicus from San Jose, CA
20 September 2000

"The Challenge" is a great little movie, if you can find it. I haven't seen it in quite a few years, and then it was only on television.

The premise of the movie is nothing new. The USA and a smaller asian country are both vying for something that landed in the ocean (I can't remember if it was a missile, or space capsule, or satellite, or what), and rather than wage war over the object, they decide to let two men, one from each nation, fight a 2-man war (a surrogate war) on a deserted island to determine who has the right to it.

If the premise seems silly, don't worry, the movie is thoroughly enjoyable and the premise soons fades into the background as the two combatants begin their cat and mouse game of survival. Both lead actors, Darren McGavin and Mako, are terrific. As Gallery, an ex US soldier/special operations spook, McGavin is a "screw the rules" mercenary type who the government needs for this mission, but doesn't really trust. Mako is every bit his equal though as the communist (at least, I think that he was a communist) soldier with a whole bag of tricks for his US counterpart.

I suppose someone might draw some sort of political conclusions from this movie, but if you are watching it for anything more than the great duel between the main characters, you are missing the point. As made-for-TV movies go, this is a gem.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

An excellent man vs man vs system film

Author: Dale Martin from Rapid City s.d.
11 August 2001

I have been looking for this film for 25 years. It was on the old ABC Movie of the week several times and I have not seen it since. Everyone that I have ever mentioned this movie to just goes Duh I don't know, or they try and tell me it's a Lee Marvin movie (wrong flick).

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Serves a higher morality than patriotism--truth, perhaps?

Author: neal-57 from United States
24 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Shown as an ABC-TV "Movie of the Week" in March, 197O, "The Challenge" has all but disappeared from view--yet it lingers in the memory of those who saw it then, and has acquired enough of a cult following to allow collectors to share amateur DVD and VHS copies of the film, usually made from the same red-tinted 16-mm print.

(NOTE to ABC and 2Oth Century-Fox: none of us really wants to watch this film, or any other, on a "pirate" video. Release an authorized, good-quality "official" version and we'll jump at it. Think about it; I know you will.)

Adding to the film's obscurity is the somewhat generic title "The Challenge," which is shared by at least half-a-dozen other movies of varying merit. The above-mentioned print shows the title "Surrogate," which doesn't exactly set off bells of recognition with potential viewers, but hits somewhat closer to the mark.

The "surrogates" in question are Jacob Gallery (Darren McGavin in a rare performance worthy of his talent), an irreverent American mercenary, and Yuro (Mako), soldier in the army of an unnamed Communist country clearly modeled on Red China. They represent the "lowest common denominator" in warfare: two champions dueling on an isolated Pacific island to see whose nation will take possession of a nuclear payload-carrying-satellite that crashed in the ocean.

Among a truly stellar supporting cast, James Whitmore is the American in charge (National Security Adviser?), big-voiced Skip Homeier plays the State Department rep who pushes for Gallery as the U.S. champion, Broderick Crawford is General Meyers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who'd rather send his own Major Bryant (an impossibly young Sam Elliot)in place of the unconventional Gallery, and the legendary Paul Lukas (in his last film role) is the U.S. expert on all things Oriental, who offhandedly predicts that Gallery will lose--and precisely how.

(Incidentally, the highly individualistic Gallery, a court-martialed ex-officer, is one in a series of "nobly rebellious" characters created by writer Marc Norman--who, a quarter-century later, would win an Academy Award writing similar characterizations for Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow to play in "Shakespeare in Love.")

The scene that sears the memory occurs when a wounded and dying Gallery sees that Bryant, in violation of all the rules (written and unwritten)has been sent in as a backup by General Meyers, and has the drop on Yuro. Ordered by Bryant to "Use your weapon. USE IT!" Gallery, nodding, damn well does--

--ON BRYANT, not Yuro!

Shortly afterward, Gallery finds that Yuro has likewise eliminated his own backup, leaving the two badly wounded adversaries free to proceed to the concluding scene of their personal drama, an object lesson in futility.

Released at the height of the Vietnam controversy, "The Challenge" no doubt ignited fires of its own, especially with the Bryant shooting scene, which apparently represents Gallery honoring a higher loyalty than patriotism--truth, perhaps? It's an attitude found more often among thoughtful patriots than among those flag-fondlers and bell-ringers who blindly chant "my country, right or wrong" in any and all circumstances.

Besides being well-made and well-acted, "The Challenge" carries a message that cries out to be heard--now, even more than then.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:


Author: tvpanic22 ( from ANCHORAGE, ALASKA
22 October 2004

I saw this flick when I was a crazy, mixed up 15 year old kid and simply fell in love with it. ABC Movies Of The Week were quite the thing back then, and this little gem was truly a piece of work. Armed with steely ambition, the film's intense performers serve it very well. MCGAVIN, WHITMORE, CRAWFORD, an unknown but outstanding SAM ELLIOT, the Oscar nominated ADOLPHE CAESAR who died before his time, and awesome JOE BERNARD in another fine support bit. Over the years, I've thought about this motion picture and wondered why it stuck around inside me. If only they'd make films like this again. They probably won't. If only conflicts could be settled like this. Perhaps they have. SEE THIS MOVIE!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A real gem...

Author: GUENOT PHILIPPE ( from France
3 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am perfectly aware that I watched a real gem here. A rare and interesting TV movie that not many people saw. A sort of political fiction adventure movie. A movie which is in the anti communist move, with many bitter accents in the meaning of this strange tale. We, of course, think of John Boorman's HELL IN PACIFIC, starring Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune. Mako and Darren Mac Gavin are excellent. And, as another user said, I could have seen Steve Mac Queen in the lead character. A connection to Vietnam war is in the middle of this very interesting plot. There would be more features like this one.

I love TVM for this reason, we find stories we can't purchase in more classic movies, released in theatres.

Catch it if you can...

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Cold War made for TV action movie

Author: macliggett1 from United States
25 January 2007

I too, saw this movie when it first aired on ABC television as their Movie of the Week. The cast is very strong with some outstanding character actors taking what could have been a very hoaky movie and execute the story with believability. Mako and Darrin McGavin have an interesting relationship and interact well as they try to kill each other. Neither care much for their governments but, fight to win in spite of that. This movie has been highly under rated. I too, would like to see this movie get released, either back out on to syndication or DVD. A good Cold War movie. It's fun to see movies where actors are just starting out, Sam Elliot is the case in point here. He plays the Army's choice (and the ace up the sleeve) for the Champion. He is the by the book professional soldier who follows orders against McGavin as the unorthodox mercenary who is preferred by the State Department. Brodrick Crawford is the General who would rather not play this game and James Whitmore is the political suit who has to make the whole game work.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Dandy pilot for a Darren McGavin series called "Gallery"

Author: Cheyenne-Bodie
8 July 2007

McGavin was 47 when he made this terrific little film.

No TV actor was as good at these roles as McGavin. He was the TV equivalent of Steve McQueen or Lee Marvin, both of whom were also veterans of TV. "The Challenge" could have made a strong theatrical movie for McQueen or Marvin. It could still be remade today.

McGavin had already starred in four television series at this point.

McGavin had starred the previous season in "The Outsider", as ex-con private investigator David Ross. This was one of the finest private eye series. Roy Huggins, who created and produced the series, later retooled it as "The Rockford Files".

After "The Challenge", McGavin made two other exceptional Movies of the Week: "Tribes" and "The Night Stalker". These were better films than most movie stars were making at the time.

When the "Gallery" pilot didn't sell, McGavin immediately signed on for another pilot where he played a spy named Killian. The TV movie was called "Berlin Affair". When someone asked him if the film was cloak and dagger, McGavin said it was more "girl on arm". That pilot didn't sell either.

I read once that McGavin turned down the lead in "Hogan's Heros" (1965-1971). He could have been dazzling in that role.

But in 1965 McGavin did sign on to star in a pilot of "From Here to Eternity". McGavin would have played the Burt Lancaster role of Sergeant Warden. Another tantalizing might have been.

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