Tag Archives: Faye Dunaway

Three Days of the Condor (1975)

By Richard Winters

My Rating:  4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Who can he trust?

Joe Turner (Robert Redford) works at a New York City CIA office, which fronts itself as a literary agency for historical books. One day Joe decides to sneak out the back way in order to grab some food at a local deli. While he is away a team of assassins headed by Joubert (Max Von Sydow) enter the place and kills everyone inside. Turner, who goes under the code name Condor, returns to find his co-workers dead and no idea who did it, or why. He contacts the CIA headquarters, which is run by Higgins (Cliff Robertson), but soon decides he can’t really trust them and attempts to somehow find a way to survive on his own without returning to his apartment, as he is afraid the killers may be there. Through sheer desperation he kidnaps a woman (Faye Dunaway) at gunpoint and forces his way into her apartment where he hopes he will be able to buy himself enough time until he can figure out what is going on.

The film, which is based on the novel ‘Six Days of the Condor’ by James Grady, has an intriguing set-up, but ultimately gets ruined by having a protagonist become too skillful and shrewd at everything until he ceases to be just a regular guy on the run. For instance he is able to get into a telephone switchboard center much too easily and then uses the skills he had apparently learned as an Army Signals Corps technician to trace a call and find the whereabouts of the bad guy, but this is something a regular person couldn’t do and thus the tension is lost because it’s no longer just an everyman trying to survive, but instead a super-smart individual with convenient knowledge for every situation.

The script has too many situations where the bad guys make unbelievable dumb decisions as well making it seem that the odds really aren’t as stacked against our hero as it initially seems. For instance there is a scene where Redford invades the home of the CIA Deputy Director (Addison Powell) who is supposedly the man behind-the-scenes who had ordered the hit. Redford sits in a downstairs office of the home and plays music very loudly from a stereo until it awakens the CIA Director and he comes down to investigate, but wouldn’t you think someone who works in a secret organization would know enough not to walk into a trap as he does here, but instead call the police if he heard a noise downstairs, or if he does come down at least do it while also holding a gun? Also, as a CIA director living in a mansion he should certainly have his home rigged with a security system, but Redford is to be able to get inside without a sweat even though we are never shown how. Also, why does Sydow the hit man not shoot Redford when he is alone with him in an elevator, which would be a perfect opportunity instead of waiting and trying to do it later at long distance when the two are outside and Redford is in a middle of a crowd and much harder to target?

The film’s lowest point though comes with Redford’s relationship with Dunaway. Only a woman with severe mental problems would magically ‘fall-in-love’ with a stranger in less than 24-hours after he accosts her with a gun and forces his way into her apartment. Even if one would argue that it’s the Stockholm syndrome it’s highly unlikely it would occur so quickly.  There’s even a stylized love making scene that seems too similar to the sex scene in another Dunaway film The Thomas Crown Affair. Besides with all the stress that Redford’s character was going through I’d think he’d be unable to perform in bed, or concerned that she was simply leading him on in order to put him in a vulnerable position, so she could take advantage of it and escape.

Von Sydow’s character, who’s willing to switch allegiances almost instantaneously depending on who’s paying him, is the only truly unique thing about this otherwise shallow thriller. Director Sydney Pollack, who appears briefly as a passerby on a sidewalk, does give the material the slick treatment and captures New York City nicely. There is also a well-choreographed fight scene inside Dunaway’s apartment, but the unsatisfying, limp ending leaves open too many unresolved issues.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: September 24, 1975

Runtime: 1 Hour 57 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Sydney Pollack

Studio: Paramount

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

The First Deadly Sin (1980)

the first deadly sin

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Aging cop tracks killer.

Based on the best-selling novel by Lawrence Sanders the story centers around Edward Delaney (Frank Sinatra) a cop only weeks away from retiring who becomes obsessed with tracking down a serial killer who hits people on the back of their heads with a sharp edge hammer as they are walking down the street. The problem is he has only a few clues to go on and his wife Barbara (Faye Dunaway) is in the hospital suffering from a mysterious illness that causes him additional stress and strain.

The film takes a refreshingly different approach to police work than what you will usually find in most Hollywood cop pictures. Instead of emphasizing exciting car chases and thrilling shoot-outs it instead analyzes the meticulous and often times tedious work that goes into following up every little lead while working inside a rigid system and under superiors that aren’t always supportive.  For the most part this is done quite well and at times it is even enlightening, but the whole first half is spent with Delaney trying to figure out what type of weapon was used in the killing even though we the viewer know what it is since we are shown the actual murder at the very beginning thus making the first hour seem quite derivative.

Having the film cut back and forth between scenes of Delaney and the killer doesn’t work. The psycho is played by David Dukes probably best known for playing the man who tries to rape Edith Bunker in a classic episode of ‘All in the Family’. He is a good actor, but scenes showing him alone are clichéd and at times even unintentionally funny. Director Brian G. Hutton should’ve cut them out completely as having the viewer come to realize who it is along with Delaney would have deepened the mystery angle and made it overall more intriguing.

The scenes with the sick wife don’t work either. For one thing we never find out what the mysterious illness is, which is highly frustrating and annoying. It also doesn’t make the plot or character any more interesting. Dunaway is a superior actress and she makes the most of the role’s limitations, but I felt an actress who was more Sinatra’s age would have made it more realistic instead of casting a woman who was 27 years younger.

I have always enjoyed Sinatra in his detective roles, but the character here isn’t as caustic as in some of his older films. For the most part he is pretty benign and even kind of boring. Joe Spinnell though makes the most of his bit part as an overzealous doorman who believes in rigidly following the rules and taking great pride in his doorman duties, but quickly willing to bend them the minute he is given some bribe money.

The final showdown between Delaney and the killer is quite unusual and much more low-key than you might expect. I enjoyed the twist that comes with it, but it lacks a strong impact and the film would have been better served had it had just a little more action.

This movie is also famous as being Bruce Willis’s film debut. He can be seen at the 1Hour 34Minute mark coming into a bar as Delaney walks out. He has a cap over his head and covering his eyes, but you can clearly see just by looking at his mouth that it is him.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: October 3, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Rated R

Director: Brian G. Hutton

Studio: Filmways Production

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

The Deadly Trap (1971)

the deadly trap

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: They have their kids.

Philippe (Frank Langella) works at a high-tech job in a large corporation. For years he has been giving trade secrets to a mysterious organization that pays him handsomely for his efforts. Now that he is married and has children he has decided he no longer wants contact with this underground entity, but they refuse to leave him alone. When he is no longer willing to corporate they kidnap his two children, which sends his emotionally and mentally fragile wife Jill (Faye Dunaway) over-the-edge.

Dunaway’s amazing performance is the one thing that really helps propel a film that is otherwise too laid-back. I have always been an admirer of hers, but her performance here is great because it is so different from any of the other characters that she has played. Normally she is cast in parts of strong or manipulative women, but here she plays someone who is very fragile and does it with amazing effectiveness. I felt like she was a completely different person and showed a side to her that I didn’t think she possessed. Her face and expressions accentuate the fragility and she looks quite beautiful.

Langella is good on the opposite end. He plays a cynical and aloof man who snaps at his wife in an annoyed manner at regular intervals. The contrasting personalities and dialogue between them is interesting. In many ways he seems to playing an extension to the character that he did in Diary of a Mad Housewife and given the fact that Eleanor Perry wrote the screenplays for both films makes me believe that there had to be more than just a passing connection there.

The story has some interesting underlying elements that manage to retain a modicum of intrigue, but Rene Clement’s direction is too leisurely. The first hour gets bogged down with too much conversation and certain tangents that go nowhere. It is only in the last half hour that things finally get going and has some interesting twists, but by then it is too late. It would have been better had we seen some sort of face to the organization instead of having them portrayed in such a vague way. The movie is also in need of a lot more action although the part where Jill and her kids get into a car accident and get thrown from the vehicle is impressive since actual bodies where used, which is something I had never seen done before.

Spoiler Alert!

The film features several loopholes that will end up confounding anyone. One is that when the children are kidnapped they are locked in an upstairs room that has a loaded gun stashed away in the closet. The children get their hands on it and use it against their captors, but you would think that a sophisticated and large criminal group that this organization supposedly is wouldn’t be so utterly careless as to leave it there. Also, when it is found that the couple’s downstairs neighbor Cynthia (Barbara Parkins) has a connection to this organization and kidnapping the police shoot her dead at point-blank range instead of just arresting her and interrogating her in order to find the whereabouts of the kids. The biggest problem though is the ending itself where the kids are saved and everybody becomes one big happy family, which doesn’t jive at all with the rest of the film that had a constant murky undertones and a couple that was always squabbling. By having this otherwise dark thriller suddenly become ‘The Brady Bunch’ at the end is jarring in tone. It also doesn’t answer the fact that the organization was never caught and therefore will continue to harass him again, so why should they be all happy when the bad guys could strike at any moment?

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: June 9, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated R

Director: Rene Clement

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: VHS, Warner Streaming

The Happening (1967)

the happening

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kidnap him for kicks.

After a night of partying a group of hippies wake up the next morning hung over. Sandy (Faye Dunaway) and Sureshot (Michael Parks) are two strangers that find that they’ve slept together outside for the night and slowly become acquainted. To escape a police raid that is rounding up the drunken partiers and arresting them for vagrancy they hop onto a nearby boat with two other men that they’ve just met Taurus (George Maharis) and Herby (Robert Walker Jr.). They happily go along the lake until some neighborhood kids who are dressed in army gear shoot at them with their toy guns. Taurus doesn’t appreciate this and docks the boat and chases them into their house. Inside is the boy’s father Roc Delmonico (Anthony Quinn) who is a former Mafia Kingpin. He thinks these four strangers are aware of his past and there to kidnap him. The group decides to play along with the ruse hoping to get some money from the ransom and also because they are just bored and looking for some kicks.

The set-up has to be one of the flimsiest I have ever seen and the fact that it took four writers to come up with something that is full of holes and ludicrous is all the more confounding.  The concept seems like something that never got past the first draft and very poorly thought out by everyone involved. The idea that four strangers who have known each other for just a few minutes could get together and kidnap someone that they don’t know on a mere lark is ridiculous. I would think a former kingpin would be better prepared for something like this and have a back-up plan instead of passively and stupidly falling into the kid’s clutches with no idea of what to do. The story would have been far stronger had this been a planned crime.

The film’s overall vapid nature is shocking when you realize that is was done on a good budget by a major studio and top director Elliot Silverstein making me wonder if anyone even cared or thought about what they were making, or simply more interested in getting into the mod mood of the times. The filmmakers portray the younger generation as being one-dimensional thrill seekers with no real or discernible personalities and in the process creates characters that are boring, unrealistic, and uninteresting. The attempts at hipness are shallow, flat, and ultimately annoying.

Despite the low plausibility the movie is slickly done making for periods of fluffy entertainment. Case in point is when the kids have their car pulled over by a policeman (Eugene Roche) when they go through a red-light and carrying Roc tied up in the trunk. In an attempt to create a ‘diversion’ Sureshot decides to get out of the car with his hands up in the air. When the cop tells him to put his hands down he refuses, which then somehow makes all the other cars on the road crash into each other. Yes, it is fun to see a big pile-up, but believing that something like that could happen over something so silly is pushing things too much to the extreme like with a lot of things in this movie.

Things improve during the second half when Roc with the help of the kids turns the tables on everyone he knows after finding out that no one is willing to pay for his ransom. The scene where they tear up his house is kind of funky despite the fact that all the furniture they smash up looks like obvious stage props. Unfortunately the ending is as weak as the beginning and offers no pay off, which most likely will make most viewers feel like they’ve wasted an hour and 45 minutes of their time.

Quinn is good and gives the script and character a lot more energy and heart than it deserves. Dunaway, in her film debut, is hot and plays the part of an immoral lady looking for cheap thrills even when she knows better quite well. Walker Jr. is good simply because he plays the only character that has any type of believability, but unfortunately he is not on enough to be completely effective. Maharis who is best known for his excellent work as Buz Murdock in the classic TV-show ‘Route 66’ is solid as the volatile and slightly unhinged member of the group.

Oskar Homolka has a few memorable moments as an aging crime boss. One scene has him in a steam room along with his henchman wrapped tightly in towels and looking like giant carrots while another segment shows him at a poolside surrounded by a bevy of beautiful bikini clad women, which like the first scene, is visually funny.

The Supremes sing the film’s theme song, which became a top ten hit, but it doesn’t get played until the closing credits and even then not in its entirety.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: May 17, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Elliot Silverstein

Studio: Columbia

Available: None

Oklahoma Crude (1973)

Oklahoma Crude

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: They want her land.

Lena Doyle (Faye Dunaway) runs a wildcat oil rig on land that she owns in Oklahoma. She is convinced that there is oil there and protects it with a feisty independence. Her father Cleon (John Mills) decides to hire Mason (George C. Scott) a lazy drifter that he picks up in town. Mason’s job is to guard against the impending invasion of the oil company headed by Hellman (Jack Palance) who wants the land and potential profits for themselves. Lena and Mason do not get along at first, but when Hellman and his men seize the land in a hostile takeover Lena and Mason form an uneasy alliance in an attempt to take it back.

Director Stanley Kramer can be considered overrated by many and I am pretty sure that he and critic Pauline Kael never exchanged Christmas gifts. However, this film has an edginess to it that I liked. The script, by Marc Norman, is full of original scenes and snappy dialogue. The on-going banter between Lena and Mason is particularly good with their conversation of how Lena wished she could be both a man and woman at once and which sexual organ she would favor being the best.  Although the line where is states “You gutless men don’t know your balls from teabags” is good too.

The movie nicely mixes in the feminist issues of the 70’s within the western motif and approaches it in an even keeled way. It was very in vogue at the time to arbitrarily label the male as the chauvinist, but here it examines the strengths and weaknesses of both sides while ultimately showing how both need to rely on the other to succeed.

Dunaway has always been a personal favorite of mine no matter what that silly Hilary Duff says. Is anyone going to remember Miss Duff in 20 or 30 years? I think not. Sure Dunaway can have her bitchy side, but maintaining a career in Hollywood can sometimes create that. Either way her bitchiness is put to terrific use here. Her pouty, icy cold stares that she gives to Mason were alone worthy of an Oscar nomination.

Scott was always known to have a strong and stubborn personality both in front of and behind the camera, so seeing him play a character that is meek and aloof is fun. His performance here rates as his most amusing second only to the one he did in Dr. Strangelove.

Palance again scores as the bad buy. He played a lot of heavies during his career, but this one is his best. There is just something about his deep, raspy voice and leering grin that make him a memorable villain.  Having him wear a bowler hat and black suit along with all of his henchman is perfect.

Mills comes close to stealing the film. The man has some very endearing moments and I felt the idea of pairing his refined British sensibilities along with Dunway’s caustic and vulgar manner was interesting. The scene where he climbs to the top of the oil rig in order to reattach the cable while Hellman and his men busily shoot at him is quite intense.

Why this great movie has never been released on VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray is a mystery. It has many fans and sure to gain more once they see it. The version existing right now on Amazon Instant Video is excellent. It is a widescreen with vivid colors and clarity. It nicely brings out the barren wide-open landscape and although it was not actually filmed in Oklahoma still gives one a good idea as to why the region is called ‘Big Sky Country’.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Stanley Kramer

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: Amazon Instant Video