Game of Death [1978]

The first rule of suicide club is that you don't talk about suicide club. Based on a Robert Louis Stevenson story called (appropriately enough) "Suicide Club," The Game of Death is set in England in 1899, a time when taking one's own life was considered beneath cowardice. Made for Roger Corman's New Concorde company, the movie has a quality look and feel not normally associated with Corman's history of low-budget productions, thanks in part to the accomplished photography of Chris Manley and a cast that includes notable actor Jonathan Pryce. David Morrissey stars as Captain Henry Joyce, a man who lost his appetite for life when his true love died six months prior. When an old friend convinces him to hit the town one night, they meet a man who's gambled away not only his family's fortune, but his family's good name as well. This gambler recognizes Henry as a fellow "ruined man," and invites him to join a suicide club where members buy into the opportunity to die without the social stigma of suicide. Pryce runs the club, which randomly assigns victims and "anonymous" killers thanks to a random draw of cards. Henry soon falls for the only female member (Catherine Siggins), who reminds him of his dead wife. This complicates his commitment to the club and to dying. If the movie doesn't quite live up to its promising set-up, well, it's still an excellent example of how good a straight-to-video movie can be. --Andy Spletzer

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