Tag Archives: David Warner

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970)

ballad of cable hogue

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Desperate man finds water.

After he is betrayed by his two friends (L.Q. Jones, Strother Martin) and forced to survive in the middle of the desert without the benefit of food, water, a gun or even a horse Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) goes on a mad search for an oasis. After four days in the heat he collapses and just as he is ready to die he suddenly finds water in the most unlikely place. He uses this untapped spring to create a way station for the stagecoaches that travel through the area and becomes quite rich, but deep down he harbors the dark desire to get revenge on the two who wronged him and one day he finally gets his chance.

Theoretically a person can survive up to 4 ½ days, or 100 hours, without water if they are in a climate with a temperature of 72, but in much hotter conditions such as the one shown here it would be far less, so having the character survive like he does seems to be a an extreme stretch, but if you can get past that then the film is quite enjoyable at least at the beginning. The script was written by John Crawford and Edmund Penney who spent the majority of their careers working as character actors in B-movies and this was their one and only foray as writers. The story’s biggest asset is the main character that is expertly portrayed by the gifted Robards. His determination to beat long odds and find success even as he starts from rock bottom should resonate with most viewers and the character’s grit meshes well with director Sam Peckinpah’s perennial theme of rugged individualism.

The addition of David Warner as a dubious minister who helps Cable build his station is excellent and the film could’ve been an engaging buddy movie had it remained at this level. Unfortunately it felt the need to add in a love interest in the form of Stella Stevens, sans make-up, who portrays a whore that takes a liking to Cable. Stevens is not as strong of an actor as Warner and doesn’t know how to carry a scene like he does, so her time in front of the camera is boring and does nothing but bog down the pace while pushing Warner’s character out, which severely hurts the film’s rugged but whimsical chemistry.

Spoiler Alert!

Strother Martin’s character becomes yet another issue. He again gets straddled with the creepy, cowardly bad guy role of which is plays to perfection, but eventually made it seem almost like typecasting. To some extent I was happy to see him become humanized as it went along, but I didn’t like how Cable decides to leave his way station to him instead of the Warner character as he was the one who helped build it. Maybe Cable realized that with the invention of the automobile his station would no longer be prosperous and he would then be sticking Martin with a stinker instead of the goldmine that he thought, which is okay, but then he saves Martin’s life just a few minutes after he was ready to kill him, which became too much of a contradiction.

End of Spoiler Alert!

The film has some funny moments, but I didn’t like the fast motion running as it made it seem too cartoon-like. The numerous potshots at religion and those that expound on it are hilarious and I enjoyed how Peckinpah looks at capitalism from both sides where it is shown to greatly benefit an individual who is able to take advantage of a market demand, but also how it can coldly abandoned that same person the second that demand goes away.  The first 40 minutes are great, but then the story loses steam with comical moments that become too drawn out and have little to do with the main story as well as a protracted ending that really fizzles.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 8, 1970

Runtime: 2Hours 1Minute

Rated R

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Perfect Friday (1970)

perfect friday

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kooky trio robs bank.

This uniquely structured and offbeat sleeper details an elaborate bank heist where staid bank employee Mr. Graham (Stanley Baker) uses his inside knowledge to pull off an ingenious robbery. Unfortunately he is dependent on the oddball couple of Nick (David Warner) and Britt (Ursula Andress) to help him.

This film is probably more of a kooky character study than it is a heist flick. The three characters are intrinsically different from each other and their constant bickering, feuding, and interplay are a treat. In fact they never get into the actual robbery or even the details of it until the last forty minutes.

Baker is fun in the lead. He is the perfect caricature of the stuffy British businessman. His contained pomposity and cryptic deliveries are right on-target. Warner makes for a good contrast. He is lazy and undisciplined with a tendency to wear outrageous looking outfits. It is interesting though that he can get serious when he needs to particularly during the crime itself.

Andress is the scene stealer and this is a perfect role for her limited acting abilities. She plays a greedy woman prone to outrageous extravagance and indulgence even if she lacks the funds for it. Her caricature of the materialistic woman gets taken to the extreme and is hilarious. In most cases she would be disliked, but here her beauty and innocuous way she delivers her lines make her amusing instead.

Director Peter Hall seems to pride himself on making it offbeat and full of many twists and succeeds most of the way even with his use of the glass offices that the bank employees have to work in. The robbery itself is intricate and believable and full of mounting tension. The film’s only real problem comes with its ending that is too abrupt and in many ways almost like a cop-out. There is such a fun chemistry between the three characters that it really could have been played out much more.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: November 10, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated R

Director: Peter Hall

Studio: Chevron Pictures

Available: None at this time.

Mr. North (1988)

mr north 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: He has static electricity.

Theophilus North (Anthony Edwards) is a young man who arrives in the town of Newport Rhode Island in the 1920’s. He has little money or connections, but soon attracts attention with his ability to give off small electrical shocks to anyone he touches. Rumors abound that he can heal sick people with this power and everyone wants to meet him, but the town Dr. (David Warner) is not as impressed and accuses him of practicing medicine without a license and a court battle ensues.

The North character is quite likable. He is self-assured, but never obnoxious or overbearing and is sensitive to everyone he meets and always seems to have wise advice to give no matter what their ailment or problem. However, he starts to get to be a little ‘too good’ and it borders on being annoying. It would have been nice to have seen him with at least one flaw or transgression simply to prove that he was human. His electrical charge ability isn’t all that impressive and the way people become so in awe of it is overblown and dumb.

He also helps the Mr. Bosworth (Robert Mitchum) character who has a bladder control issue by giving him pills, which is nothing more than peppermint, but assures him it will ‘cure’ his ailment. Eventually it does suggesting that incontinence is a psychological problem, which is ridiculous as it is almost always a medical one and makes this an insult to anyone who suffers from it.

The tone is pleasing and the recreation of the period is satisfactory, but the pacing is off. Nothing at all happens during the first hour and only slightly gains traction during the end. The scene where North gets chased by a mob of people looking for him to cure them is amusing, but seems to shift this otherwise whimsical fable-like tale into an all-out farce.

The supporting cast is fun. Eccentric actress Tammy Grimes is good as Mitchum’s spoiled adult daughter who tries to make things as difficult for North as she can. Harry Dean Stanton puts on an very effective Limey accent and Lauren Bacall is interesting in a rare sympathetic role. David Warner is terrific as always as the heavy and it should have been played up even more.

The film is directed by Danny Huston who is the son of the legendary John Huston who also co-wrote the screenplay and his sister Angelica appears very briefly. Unfortunately the film is too predisposed at being one of those ‘feel-good’ movies and in the process becomes formulaic and one-dimensional. The final result is a slick, but slow moving production that is empty and forgettable.

mr north 2

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 22, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Danny Huston

Studio: The Samuel Goldwym Company

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video