Mr. Sycamore (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Mailman becomes a tree.

Bored with his job as a mailman and unhappy in his marriage John Gwilt (Jason Robards) decides one day to turn himself into an oak tree. He digs a hole in his backyard and ‘plants’ himself into it where he stands there day and night waiting to become a tree while his wife Jane (Sandy Dennis) tries desperately to talk him out of it, his neighbor Fred (Robert Easton) laughs at him and his minister (Mark Miller) tries to have him committed.

The film, which is based on a 1942 Broadway play, has a certain whimsical tone to it that might be pleasing to some if in the right mood and there is a certain strange intrigue at wondering just how this thing will end and whether he will eventually turn into a tree or not. However, the material would be better suited as a film short and the offbeat quality gets lost in a script that deals solely with a long parade of people who come into contact with John and their predictably shocked and confused responses when finding out what he is trying to do. The low budget is also an issue and outside of showing the inner-workings of a mail processing machine at the beginning there is no visual style at all.

Robards is a natural for the part, but he had already played a nonconformist looking to drop out of society earlier in the film and stage play A Thousand Clowns making his appearance here seem almost like typecasting. Jean Simmons gets wasted in a small bit as John’s secret love interest. Dennis, who usually plays kooky characters, becomes the most rational one here, which ultimately is the film’s weirdest element.

This definite curio does have a few amusing moments, but it lacks a second act or interesting side story and eventually talks its strange concept to death until it becomes boring.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: December 12, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes

Rated G

Director: Pancho Kohner

Studio: Film Ventures International

Available: VHS

The Laughing Policeman (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: This policeman isn’t laughing.

8 passengers on a San Francisco bus are slaughtered to death by a mysterious gunman for no apparent reason. When Police Sargent Jake Martin (Walter Matthau) investigates he finds that his patrol partner is one of the victims. He soon learns that his partner was working on another case during his off hours dealing with a murdered prostitute that Jake had also worked on, but couldn’t crack. He begins to believe the two cases are somehow connected, but his brash department head (Anthony Zebe) doesn’t agree and thinks it is a waste of time to pursue the possible connection while also sticking him with Leo (Bruce Dern) a younger cop who doesn’t always like to play within the rules and whose manner and methods conflicts with Jake’s.

The film, which is based on the novel by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall who also did the book version for Man on the Roof, has a finely detailed gritty nature about it that looks at the methods of a police investigation in a realistic and unglamorous fashion, which significantly helps this one stand out from the usual cop dramas. I loved the way they searched for clues on the bus and the autopsies of the victims as well as pursuing leads that never pan out, which is a very common occurrence in most police investigations, but rarely is ever shown in movies. There is even a shot of a tow truck removing the disabled bus from the accident scene once the investigation is completed.

Although the novel’s setting was Stockholm the movie transplants the action to San Francisco making the Bay City almost like a third character. Director Stuart Rosenberg manages to nicely capture the eclectic vibe of the area and the disdain many people had for the police during that era. The movie also uses very little music, which is a major asset and helps accentuate the realism. Outside of the closing credits the only time there is really any other music is near the end when Jake and Leo start following a suspect, which comes off as jarring and should’ve been left out.

Matthau who’s mostly known for his comedic parts does well in an atypical role, which due to his casting and the film’s strange title may make some think it is a comedy though this is far from it. Dern is terrific in a role that takes full advantage of his edgy acting style and I liked how the two characters don’t get along at first, but eventually get past their differences and use each other’s unique strengths to their advantage. I was disappointed though that there is a side-story dealing with Jake’s tumultuous relationship with his teenage son that gets introduced early on, but then dropped and completely forgotten during the second half.

Louis Gossett Jr. gets a star making turn as a brash street cop and Zerbe is superb in support as the gruff police chief. Joanna Cassidy has a brief, but interesting bit as a witness and I liked the shot showing her and Dern sitting amidst a row of tables with table legs made to look like human ones. It’s also amusing to note that Albert Paulsen’s character who becomes the main suspect in the film never utters a single word of dialogue.

Spoiler Alert!

The film’s biggest downfall though is with its ending. It is very hard to believe that a character such as Paulsen’s that is portrayed as being rich and having a lot of connections would feel the need to shoot and kill the bus passengers himself as most if not all rich people simply hire someone else to their dirty work. I also didn’t think that someone who walks down the street surrounded by lawyers would crack as quickly as this one does when Matthau comes to question him about the case. A typical well-off businessman would simply ‘lawyer-up’ and trust that the minimum evidence that the police have would not hold up in court instead of jumping into his car and racing down the city streets in a panic such as he does here. The finale becomes too conveniently Hollywood-like and seems to sell out on the film’s original concept, which left this viewer with a flat and ambivalent feeling towards it when it was over.

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End of Spoiler Alert!

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 20, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Rated R

Director: Stuart Rosenberg

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD

Leonard Part 6 (1987)

leonard part 6

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: One really bad movie.

Leonard Parker (Bill Cosby) is a former CIA agent who is now retired and running a restaurant in San Francisco while trying to reconcile things with his wife (Pat Colbert) and  keeping his college-aged daughter (Victoria Rowell) from marrying a man in his 60’s (Moses Gunn). Unfortunately for him a crazed vegetarian by the name of Medussa Johnson (Gloria Foster) has managed to somehow brainwash all the animals to kill people and Leonard is appointed the only person able to stop it. He is reluctant at first, but with the help of his ever supportive butler Frayn (Tom Courtenay) he puts on his action suit for one last adventure at saving the world.

The film, which was written by Cosby, starts out okay enough with a funny bit dealing with a shootout inside the kitchen of a busy restaurant, but then quickly devolves. Part of the problem is an over emphasis on Leonard’s boring domestic life and attempts at winning back his wife, which makes the whole thing seem like two movies in one. In fact the first 35 minutes are spent with Leonard acting very much like a Cliff Huxtable while arguing with his rebellious daughter about her lifestyle choices before it even gets into the spy/action part. When it finally does get into the adventure segment it becomes weird, surreal and confusing with some of the most pathetic attempts at special effects you’ll ever see.

The film also offers no backstory for how the Medussa character was able to ‘brainwash’ the animals even though one was sorely needed. Elmer Bernstein’s musical score is generic and is pretty much made up of bits and pieces of other famous scores from other films or shows including the theme from the 80’s medical TV-show ‘St. Elsewhere’. As for the spy spoofing aspect the film fails to be funny at all and comes off like no one involved in this ever actually watched a spy film to really know what they were trying to make fun of.

The weakest link is Cosby who gives a terrible performance that shows none of his charisma that he has brought to his other projects. He appears uncomfortable and completely upstaged by his supporting cast including even that of Joe Don Baker. Foster is great as the campy villain and it’s just too bad that her efforts had to be wasted in such a bad film. Courtenay is amusing in support, but his talents deserve better material. Jane Fonda is fun in a brief bit playing herself in a send-up of her 80’s exercise videos.

Director Paul Weiland shows some potential with a wacky, stylish design, but was unfortunately too intimidated to give Cosby any real direction and simply allowed the project to become an embarrassing self-indulgent ego tangent on the part of the star. Unless you’re in the mood for a really bad movie night I would suggest staying away from this one as there are hurricanes and tornadoes that are less disastrous than this.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: December 18, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Paul Weiland

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Gentle Savage (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Indian accused of rape.

Camper John (William Smith) is an Indian living in a small town who gets accused of raping a white girl (Betty Ann Carr) by Ken (Kevin Hagen) her stepfather even though it was actually Ken who did it. The hidden prejudices of the predominantly white folks come to light against the nearby Indian community. Both sides take up arms and become intent on crushing the other causing hysteria and violent outbreaks while Camper John tries hiding out until it blows over.

If there is anything distinctive about this otherwise formulaic and predictable low budget drama is the fact that it paints vigilantism as more of a problem than a solution even if the one side feels completely justified, which I found to be a refreshing and more realistic take on the issue especially as the Indian group becomes as vindictive, violent and hateful as the people they are trying to fight. However, it would’ve been nice had there been at least one white person who wasn’t portrayed as being completely narrow-minded and bigoted, which in a lot of ways comes off as reverse racism by the filmmakers.

The music is loud and overly dramatic, which gives the proceedings a very heavy-handed feel. In a lot of ways it comes off as a poor man’s Billy Jack, which was already pretty amateurish and one-dimensional to begin with although still far better than this thing. The 75 minute version that I viewed had an abrupt ending that seemed incomplete and failed to tie up many loose ends, but I wasn’t complaining as even with the abbreviated runtime it was still highly protracted, overblown and tedious with the scene of a water tower tank exploding and dousing everyone on the street with tons of water being the only slightly diverting moment.

Smith is intense in the lead, but he should’ve been given more dialogue especially at the beginning as the viewer barely gets to know or understand him before being jettisoned into his quandary. Character actor R. G. Armstrong who normally plays menacing characters his quite wimpish here as a bartender who gets held down and forced to swallow drink after drink when he tries closing down the bar before the patrons were ready. Hagen is competent as the bad guy, but casting Gene Evans and Joe Flynn as a bumbling sheriff and deputy in an attempt at misguided ‘comic relief’ in the Last House on the Left-type vein was a big mistake. One scene even has them handcuffed together wearing nothing but their underpants while forced to walk across the desert, but it all adds little and takes away from the tension, which is the only time that this flat film ever becomes mildly diverting.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Alternate Title: Camper John

Released: March 7, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes (Full Version)

Rated R

Director: Sean MacGregor

Studio: Cinemation Industries

Available: None at this time.

Bill Cosby: Himself (1983)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: The Cos onstage routine.

Filmed in Hamilton, Ontario the movie centers entirely on Cosby in concert as he sits in front of a very enthusiastic audience doing many of his typical onstage routines including takes on child rearing, family life, marriage, dentist visits and even fart jokes. There is also a bit at the beginning about people who go out on weekends to party and get drunk only to regret it on Monday morning, which I found to be the funniest.

Although not R-rated the humor is still edgier than you might expect at one point he even says the word ‘asshole’ and uses his chair like it is a toilet that he is throwing up into. The material isn’t exactly fresh either as some of the jokes were already used during the pilot episode of his 60’s comedy TV-show. The opening credit sequence, which shows black and white pictures of kids and teenagers, which may or may not be his own is good because it features The Cos doing a parody of the Bill Withers’ song ‘Just the Two of Us’ only here it gets called ‘Just the Slew of Us’. Cosby’s entrance onto the stage in which he enters to the roar of the crowd and then leaves and comes back again to more applause is funny and shows his incredible ability to work an audience while looking completely at ease.

These days of course with the rape allegations this film along with everything else he has done has taken on a sour note. Some may not want to watch it simply for that reason and that’s fine. I’m conflicted a bit with the whole thing due to the fact that there are so many women suddenly coming forward after remaining silent for so many years like they just want to ‘jump on the bandwagon’ for whatever reason, but ultimately there is too many of them at this point to believe that they all could be lying.

The way I figure it, it all makes sense because in Hollywood the celebrity has access to a wider circle of attractive, younger people that a regular person doesn’t, which is why most marriages and relationships there don’t last because it’s just too easy to find someone else no matter what the age or looks of the star may be. Don Knotts in his 70’s managed to date and marry an attractive blonde in her 30’s. Dick Van Dyke who is near 90 is married to a woman in her 40’s and Carol Burnet in her early 80’s is married to a man in his 40’s. Tinseltown is full of people with trophy-like girlfriends (or boyfriends) to the point that it is the norm and even acceptable, but for Cosby it would’ve ruined his career because his whole act hinges on family values. So by drugging them to which he is accused of was his way of ‘fooling around’ and taking advantage of his celebrity status while still keeping his ‘clean-cut’ image intact and banking on the fact that no one would believe them if they ever did decide to come forward.

However, the biggest controversy in this instance is even calling this a movie to begin with. Most films even a documentary have some cutaways or visual variety, but this has none. We don’t even get to see the faces of the audience. The camera stays glued to Cosby from beginning to end, which despite his engaging nature and mildly funny jokes becomes incredibly tedious to sit through and watch.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 20, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Bill Cosby

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD

Heroes (1977)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Adjusting to civilian life.

Jack (Henry Winkler) is a Vietnam Vet. still suffering from nightmares from his war time experiences. He has been in and out of the psyche ward at the veteran’s hospital, but has come up with an idea that he feels will makes both him and his buddies a lot of money. He wants to start a worm farm to be used as fisherman’s bait, but must board a bus to California to do. There he meets Carol (Sally Field) a woman who is engaged to be married and was a war protester during the 60’s. The two don’t get along at first, but eventually a relationship is made as she and his cousin Ken (Harrison Ford) help Jack fulfill his dream.

The movie is well filmed for the most part and even has a nicely shot and exciting foot chase down the busy streets of Manhattan, but the script by James Carabatsos, who was a Vietnam Vet. himself is too loosely structured and only glosses over the many issues that veterans face, which gives the whole thing a very shallow feeling. The only time we ever see any type of flashback’s to the experiences that Jack had while fighting in the war is at the end even though I felt the film would’ve been much stronger had this been shown throughout. The comical segments are misplaced and the story would’ve worked better had it just stuck to the drama.

The film also spends too much time with Jack and Carol’s budding romance, which for the most part comes off as forced. The cutesy ways that the two are shown constantly bumping into each other as their relationship ‘blossoms’ is contrived and having the two already as a boyfriend/girlfriend from the very start would’ve helped focus things more solely on Jack, which it doesn’t do enough of. I also felt that the segment where Carol pays for damages that Jack does at a café and then goes with him and his buddy Ken to an isolated location where she is promised to get paid back for it didn’t seem realistic. I realize this was the ‘70s where people were more relaxed about meeting strangers, but it still seemed dangerous and impractical for a lonely woman to be driving off with two men she had only met and were already acting peculiar to begin with.  A normal person would’ve simply sued him in small claims court to get back the money that they felt was owed.

Winkler does a terrific job in the lead and I felt it was a shame he hadn’t pursued his film career further instead of languishing away in television. Field is good as well as is Ford playing against type as a country hick. Character actor Stuart Margolin has a fun bit as a driver who picks the two up as they are hitchhiking and Val Avery is amusing as the bus driver who becomes increasingly annoyed at Jack’s antics.

The film has its share of pleasing moments, but on the whole it’s shallow and forgettable. There have been so many other better films on the subject that this one seems barley worth even mentioning.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: November 4, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jeremy Kagan

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Devil and Max Devlin (1981)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Working for the devil.

Max (Elliot Gould) works for a slumlord and does whatever he can to make life miserable for the tenants who rent from him. After getting run over by a bus while trying to chase down a delinquent tenant he finds himself in hell and face-to-face with the devil (Bill Cosby) who gives him a deal that will allow him to get out of dealing with ‘Level 4’, which is supposedly one of the harsher penalties for hell dwellers. The deal consists of Max getting three people to sign over their souls at which point Max’s will be freed, but as Max gets to know the people including that of 10-year-old Toby (Adam Rich) whose mother Penny (Susan Anspach) he is interested in marrying he becomes reluctant to follow through with it.

This movie was part of Disney’s effort to break away from the kiddie-like slapstick of their 70’s films and become edgier and more ‘hip’. This film along with The Black Hole, Condorman, and Tron where all produced to attract an older teen audience and gain a trendier appeal, but it pretty much failed and this movie was the worst of them. Part of the problem is that the main character is a man in his 40’s, which kids and teens cannot relate to. Most films need to have a protagonist the same age as its intended audience in order to build that connection and this one doesn’t. It’s also very slow with little or no action. I found myself completely bored with it during the second hour and I can only imagine what a 10 or even 13-year-old must have felt. The humor is minimal and not funny. It also lacks any type of ‘coolness’ with a plot that isn’t any more sophisticated than the formulaic stuff it had already been churning out, which at least was engaging on a mindless level, which this one isn’t.

I liked the scenes shown from hell, but that is about it. The script, which was written by Mary Rodgers who had earlier success with Freak Friday seems unable to understand things from a teen’s perspective while being quite predictable in the process. Also, the reasons for Max going to hell, which include cheating on a test in the 4th grade and stealing candy from a store as a child seem awfully trite. If hell truly does exist and minor stuff like that is enough to get people sent there then the majority of us will be going and heaven will be a very empty place.

Gould does surprisingly well, but I still felt he was miscast. Cosby is wasted and barely even used although the scene near the end where he appears in devilish makeup is effective and creepy. Anspach is equally wasted and Ronnie Schell who plays as an aggressive talent agent wearing some very loud suits is seen much too briefly.

This one is a definite pass even for Disney fans. It’s too edgy and scary for little kids, not hip enough for teens while being too watered down for adults.

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My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: March 6, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Steven Hilliard Stern

Studio: Buena Vista Productions

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The One and Only (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Struggling actor becomes wrestler.

Andy Schmidt (Henry Winkler) is a college student with a driving ambition of becoming a star. He is constantly doing things to be the center of attention including being a scene stealer in every stage play that he is in even if his role is minor. He meets and falls in love with Mary (Kim Darby) and the two move to New York, but find that life in the big city can be difficult especially when Andy is unable to secure any type of acting gig. Then by chance he meets Milton (Herve Villechaize) who is a dwarf wrestler that gets Andy connected to his promotor Milton (Gene Saks). Milton thinks Andy’s need for attention and flamboyance would be perfect for the theatrics of the wrestling world and although he is initially reluctant eventually starts to love it even when his wife hates it and threatens to leave him unless he quits.

Winkler’s performance is the film’s driving force and outside of his signature role as The Fonz this has to be his best work. I enjoyed the variety of characters that he plays in the ring, but the character himself tends to be quite obnoxious and borders on being a complete turn-off especially at the beginning. It is also hard to believe that anyone could fall in love with someone who is so extremely narcissistic and self-centered making the whole romance angle seem forced. The role also, during the scenes when he is in the ring and wearing very little, shows just how short and puny Winkler really is.

The script by Steve Gordon, who later went onto to pen and direct the Dudley Moore version of Arthur, seems reluctant to dive completely into the wrestling angle even though these scenes are by far the most interesting and funniest and when it gets away from the ring its predictable and contrived. I also couldn’t understand how they were able to maintain an apartment as small as it was when Andy was unable to get any type of job or income and the idea that they had unprotected sex and brought in an infant into the world when they could barely support themselves seemed utterly ludicrous. The film’s setting is during the 50’s, but it never comes full circle into the 70’s making it seem incomplete and the characters not as evolved as they could’ve been.

Darby does well in her part and works as a nice anchor to Winkler’s unbridled zaniness. I also really liked Polly Holliday best known for her role as Flo on the long running TV-series ‘Alice’ as Darby’s uptight mother who finally lets loose at the very end while watching Andy in a wrestling match. Saks has a lot of funny lines especially the running joke dealing with his ‘weird’ son, but his glasses that seem glued to his forehead eventually became annoying to look at.

On the negative side you also have rotund actor Richard Karron who’s excessively hairy, flabby physique, which gets shown in all of its unglorious splendor during one particular match may possibly be one of the grossest sights ever put on celluloid. The casting of the infant is another issue as when he is shown in the hospital he has a full head of blonde hair and then in all the subsequent scenes he has dark black hair.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: February 3, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Carl Reiner

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Static (1985)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Everybody sees only static.

Ernie Blick (Keith Gordon) works at a crucifix factory, but dreams of making it big with his secret invention. The whole town that he lives in is abuzz about it and many take bets as to what it is. However, once Ernie unveils it no one is impressed. Ernie insists that he has created a device that can show live images of heaven, but all anyone else can see on the TV screen is static. Ernie becomes frustrated that no one can appreciate what he has done so he hijacks a bus carrying a group of senior citizens in order to create a media event that will allow him to share his invention with the rest of the world, but things don’t go as planned.

The film has that refreshing look and feel of an authentic indie flick made long before it was trendy and still in its infancy of being a trailblazer for original ideas. It’s fun and clever most of the way including a memorable shot of Ernie’s weird crucifix collection. The humor is subtle and hip with a cool music selection from lesser known 80’s bands. Director Mark Romanek shows great visual flair with his use of unique settings and color designs. The dialogue and characters are both engaging and quirky. I also loved the opening credits, which features a small, static filled TV screen in the distant background along with the sound of a low hum, which I found to be strangely hypnotic.

Gordon, who co-wrote the screenplay, does well in a difficult role where the viewer is supposed to find him likable and appealing despite the fact that he is clearly a bit unhinged. Amanda Plummer as his girlfriend gets a rare turn as being the most normal one in the film, which is interesting. Bob Gunton has a few choice moments as a conniving preacher man named Frank and Jane Hoffman is amusing as a senior citizen who tries to help Ernie on his mission.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t carry the quirky idea to a successful completion. It might have worked better had there been some image of some kind seen and then everyone could’ve debated whether that was indeed heaven or not instead of just seeing static, which comes off like a big buildup to nothing. The satire is too obvious and its overall message frustratingly vague. The violent and completely unexpected tragic ending is jarring and unnecessary and ruins its otherwise pleasant, whimsical tone.

There is also a scene where Gordon and Plummer go to a restaurant and order food, but when it gets served they barely touch it and then a minute later get up and leave after paying the bill, but why pay for something or even order if you’re just going to leave it there untouched? This is an annoying thing that I’ve seen happen in other films as well. I hate to sound preachy, but sometimes when I see these types of scenes I feel like screaming ‘There’s kids starving in Africa, so don’t waste your food people’!

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My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: October 1, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R

Director: Mark Romanek

Studio: Siren

Available: VHS 

The Getaway (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bank robbery goes bad.

Based on pulp writer Jim Thompson’s novel the story centers on Doc McCoy (Steve McQueen) who is stuck in the Texas State Prison and itching to get out. He gets his wife Carol (Ali MacGraw) who is on the outside to strike a deal with Sheriff Jack Benyon (Ben Johnson) where he will get a release as long as he agrees to rob a bank using Benyon’s men. Doc is somewhat reluctant, but agrees to go along with it only to find that after the robbery he has been double-crossed and now along with his wife must make a dash for Mexico while being chased by the cops and going through a wide assortment of unexpected obstacles.

Action director guru Sam Peckinpah has done many classic films most notably The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs, but this one has always been my favorite as it’s a nice mix of action, character study and comedy. In fact it’s the subtle humor that I like best. I get a kick out of the shot showing Benyon’s brother’s henchman riding in a convertible down a highway while having their hands on their cowboy hats in order to keep them from blowing off. I also chuckled at the book actor Dub Taylor has in his back pocket while cowering under a table during a shootout or what actor Al Lettieri immediately does after finding a dead man hanging in a bathroom.

Peckinpah also makes great use of sound particularly at the beginning where during the opening credits we hear no music, but instead the monotonous sounds of the machines inside the prison workshop, which helps convey Doc’s increasing frustration and this sound doesn’t stop until the exact second that the prison doors open up and allows him out. When there is music it’s effective and distinct particularly the harmonica solos by Toots Thielemans.

Of course Peckinpah’s trademark action sequences are excellent and maybe even superior to his other films because the situations are more unique including an exciting segment showing the couple trapped inside a garbage truck as well as an impromptu shootout along the main street of Fabens, Texas. The only complaint is the scene where Doc’s car goes crashing through someone’s front porch and yet the car shows no visible damage; one shot does show a crack in the corner of the windshield, but then in the next shot it has magically disappeared.

McQueen’s ability to show effortless cool and make an edgy character likable proves what a legendary actor he is and it’s a shame that he doesn’t get placed with the best of them amongst casual movie fans because he really should. MacGraw is at the peak of her beauty here and her moments of vulnerability are great. Struthers gives the best performance of her career as an unfaithful wife of a kindly veterinarian (Jack Dodson) and Lettieri, who unfortunately died at the young age of 47 just 3 years after this film’s release by a heart attack brought on by severe alcoholism, which was already painfully apparent to the cast and crew during the filming of this adds great tension as Doc’s double-crossing partner.

The film also makes great use of its Texas locations bringing out the ruggedness of the region without overdoing it. I particularly liked the scenes in the junkyard as well as footage shot on-location inside the Huntsville prison using actual prisoners and the longshot showing the flat, barren landscape that Doc first sees when he gets out.

I’ve watched this movie many times and never cease to grow tired of it. In fact it seems even more original after multiple viewings. It was unwisely remade in 1994 that starred Alec Baldwin, who doesn’t come close to McQueen’s stature. This version is by far the better one and the other should be avoided.

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My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: December 13, 1972

Runtime: 2Hours 2Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube