By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: She is really crazy.
Based on the Elmore Leonard novel and remade in 2004 as a vehicle for Owen Wilson this version stars Ryan O’Neal as Jack Ryan a Vietnam vet on the run when he has a physical altercation with a player during a baseball game that leaves the other man injured and looking for revenge. He meets up with Ray Ritchie (James Daly) and his mistress/secretary Nancy (Leigh Taylor-Young) who is a bit on the wild side. She convinces Jack to help her rob her boss of a large amount of money that he has hidden away in his safe, but Jack becomes wary as Nancy displays more and more psychotic tendencies.
I enjoyed the film’s jaded sensibilities, but unfortunately it doesn’t do enough with them. There is too much talk without enough action. The plot is thin and unfocused. I spent the entire time wanted the story to get moving, but it really never does until the very end and by then it is too late. The scenes are lengthy and the production has too plodding a pace. I also didn’t like the fact that they discuss the robbery, but never go through with it. Nothing is more frustrating than an already draggy movie having a potentially interesting plot progression only to drop it.
I also couldn’t stand the music which sounded like men from a barbershop quartet and gets overplayed until it becomes annoying. The melody was too soft and mellow and did not fit the edgy tone of the script, or characters. This is the type of film that needed an up-tempo score with hard and fast beat.
For what it is worth Taylor -Young is good. She gets convincingly crazy and has a near epic meltdown at the end. She also has a tantalizing scene involving her swimming nude, which is only topped by another scene showing her standing naked in the middle of graveyard while pretending to be a statue.
O’Neal is okay although I felt some other actors might have been better, but at least he improves as the film progresses. The two stars were married in real-life at the time and I presume the producers cast them in the parts hoping that their chemistry would project onto the screen, but it never does and they ended up divorced four years later.
Van Heflin is great in a supporting role as Sam Mirakian a cynical and detached man who has seen it all. He brings the film some much needed energy. Lee Grant is also terrific and it was a crime that she wasn’t given more screen time. She makes her desperate and emotionally brittle character real and interesting. Cindy Eilbacher is quite adorable as her young daughter Cheryl. Robert Webber also deserves mention as he is amusing playing a man trying to be tough and intimidating, but ending up always looking like a schmuck.
I never saw the remake, but heard from several people that it wasn’t too great either. I dare say the novel is the best of the three and both film versions are worth skipping.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: March 5, 1969
Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes
Director: Alex March
Studio: Warner Brothers/Seven Arts
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video