Tag Archives: Jill Ireland

Breakout (1975)

breakout

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Escape from Mexican jail.

Loosely based on the actual 1971 incident involving Joel David Kaplan, who after being framed for murder and stuck inside a Mexican prison for 9 years, was able to escape when his sister hired a pilot to fly a helicopter into the prison yard and allow Kaplan to jump into it and flee. In this movie Jay Wagner (Robert Duvall) is the Kaplan character and Nick Colton (Charles Bronson) is the goofy, but lovable pilot.

Veteran director Tom Gries delivers a compact action pic that has a good mix of humor and excitement. The comedy is not forced and genuinely engaging, but once the action gets going it is entertaining as well. When the helicopter starts flying into the prison with 30 minutes left in the movie I found myself completely riveted. Gries photographs the action in a way that makes the viewer feel like they are inside the helicopter alongside Bronson. The stunts are authentic and done on-location, which is a big plus. One scene involving a man getting sliced up by an airplane propeller is surprisingly explicit and should make anyone wince when they see it.

My only quibble in the direction department is the opening where a man is shown being shot to death while Gries freezes the frame every few seconds as the victim falls down, which came off as being disjointed and distracting. There is also a shot of the dead body lying on the ground with blood stains on his white shirt. However, there are no bullet holes in his shirt and you really can’t have blood coming out of someone’s body unless you have bullet holes and if you have them piercing the skin you most likely would have them piercing the shirt, but none were found in the shot I saw.

Bronson is highly engaging and steals every scene that he is in. I was surprised how comfortable he was in a comedic role and it made me wish he had taken more stabs at comedy in his career. My favorite moment with him is his nervous, anxiety-ridden expression on his face when he tries to pilot a helicopter and finds that it is much more complicated than he realized. The running gag of him trying to pass off a bad check is also good.

Jill Ireland who plays the wife of the Duvall character and is the one who hires Nick for the job is also enjoyable. She is almost as amusing as Bronson especially with the way she becomes increasingly exasperated by the situation. The two seem to work better when they are adversarial and you could never tell that in real life they were husband and wife.

Sheree North is also great in a small supporting role. Although she was already in her 40’s when she did the part she still looks sexy in a full body shot of her in some really, really short shorts. Her very politically incorrect rape conversation that she has with Nick is good.

Duvall is wasted in a part that doesn’t allow for much range and limited screen time. I’m actually surprised that he even took the part. However, his hair style, and I’m not sure if it was a wig, or just a really good comb-over, but it completely covers up his normally bald head and makes him look twenty years younger.

Randy Quaid seems equally underused, but having the chance at seeing him in drag may make his appearance here worth it to some.

I didn’t like the part where Duvall gets buried alive while inside a coffin in his attempt to escape as it is too reminiscent of a classic Alfred Hitchcock episode entitled ‘Final Escape’, which is better and shouldn’t be touched. However, as a whole, this is a good 95 minutes of enjoyable non-think entertainment.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: May 22, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Tom Gries

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Rider on the Rain (1970)

rider on the rain

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chuck is in control. 

Supposedly the inspiration of The Doors song ‘Riders on the Storm’ this stylish mystery deals with Mela (Marlene Jobert) a beautiful young woman who finds herself being stalked by a strange bald headed man carrying a mysterious red bag. He follows her to her home where he then rapes her. She manages to get her hands on one of her husband’s rifles and shoots the man dead. She throws his dead body over a cliff and into the sea where she thinks that will be the end of it, but then an American by the name of Harry Dobbs (Charles Bronson) shows up who seems to know all about it and will not leave Mela alone until she confesses to the whole thing.

Director Rene Clement is a master at his craft. Every shot and scene has an evocatively stylish flair particularly at the beginning. The lighting, camera work, editing, and moody score by Francis Lai are first rate and help grab the viewer in right away and keep them hooked. There are strong shades of Hitchcock, but like with Hitch the performers become nothing more than pawns to the director’s vision. The actors seem a bit stifled and unable to create any nuance to their characters. Everything is done to propel the story, which is fine, but sometimes expanding the scenes to allow the actor’s to expound more gives a film a fresh and natural flow, which is lacking here. The rape sequence relies almost completely on the breathing sounds of Mela and some interesting edits, which I felt was good, but it could have been even more provocative and cutting edge had this part been extended and a little more graphic.

While the script by Sebastien Japrisot is full of intriguing twists and nicely complex the middle part dealing with Harry’s seemingly unending interrogation of Mela goes on much too long and bogs things down. I would have liked to have seen a little more variation of their roles where at times Mela would get the upper-hand, but for the most part Harry remains in complete control and Mela is dominated and confused throughout, which isn’t as interesting.

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Jobert is sexy and adds a definite sparkle to the film. Normally I prefer women with long hair, but her short cut gives her a youthful appeal. Her blue emerald-like eyes make a great contrast to her reddish hair and her freckles helps accentuate the youthful and naïve quality of the character. Her husband Tony played by Gabriele Tinti, has the chiseled boyish looks of a male model with a pair of baby blue eyes that is almost as stunning as Marlene’s making this couple enjoyable to watch for their looks alone for both male and female viewers.

Bronson is at his tough guy best. He takes on seven men in a room and kicks their ass without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately that is all the action that there is and there needed to be more of it. Jill Ireland appears briefly as a character that has little to do with the plot, but looks gorgeous nonetheless.

The film’s final plot twist is rather boring and the conclusion is weak and non-eventful. Mystery fans may enjoy the film’s winding story, but Bronson enthusiasts will be disappointed at the film’s lack of action.

rider on the rain 3

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: January 21, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Rated R

Director: Rene Clement

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

From Noon Till Three (1976)

from noon til 3 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: This western gets weird.

Graham (Charles Bronson) is a part of a four member bank robbing gang on their way to another hold-up. Before they get there Graham’s horse gets injured and has to be shot. Later on they come upon an isolated mansion sitting all alone in the rolling hills of the west. The gang asks the woman owner Amanda (Jill Ireland) if she has a horse for sale. She says no despite the fact that she does, so Graham stays with her while the other three rides off to rob the bank and assures them they will be back with the money at three. During this time Graham and Amanda fall in-love and when three o’clock hits everything goes off-kilter featuring one wild twist after another in this highly unusual one-of-a-kind western.

This film is so offbeat it is hard to describe any of the twists without giving too much away however, after a rather slow start it does become entertaining in a quirky sort of way and filled with amusingly ironic twists. Writer/director Frank D. Gilroy seems to be challenging himself at coming up with one weird plot device after another and keeping the viewer off balance throughout. While this is basically fun it does end up making it more like a gimmick than an actual plot driven, character motivated movie. Categorizing this more as a fable or fairy tale might be more accurate and Elmer Bernstein’s playful, lighthearted score helps cement this.

Bronson is amazingly game for the offbeat material that goes completely against his persona. The change of pace is refreshing and although the part does not call for any great acting range he is still quite engaging and endearing. The part where he talks to Amanda about his inability to ‘get it up’ and the erectile dysfunction that he has suffered from for the past seven years is priceless as is the scene where years later when he meets Amanda again and he unzips his pants and takes out is shriveled penis to show her in order for her to recognize him.

from noon til 3 3

Ireland is good and I loved the variety of dresses that she wears and hairstyle that is put up into a bun. This may be her best performance of her career and certainly the best one that she did with Chuck. She actually becomes the star of the story and even ends up with more screen time than him. As an added treat she sings the film’s closing song over the credits, which she does quite well.

I loved the image of this big mansion all alone in an otherwise stark and barren landscape, which has definite shades of Days of Heaven to it. I was interested in knowing if this was an actual house and where it was located, but the closing credits stated that the entire production was filmed at the Warner Brothers studios in Burbank California making it pretty clear that the home was just a prop built for the movie and most likely torn down after filming, which is a shame.

It is clear visually that Gilroy’s background was more in the writing end than in directing. While the story is full of unbridled wackiness the camera angles, editing, and staging is dull. There is also an opening segment where the men ride up on horseback to the bank and sky is completely cloudy. Then as the camera cuts to show them getting off their horses the sky is now suddenly sunny without a cloud in it. I realize most scenes are not shot in synchronized order and it is hard when filming outdoors to make the weather cooperate, so I am usually forgiving in this area, but this did seem extreme.

If you are in the mood for something different this novelty may do the trick and Bronson fans will be interested in seeing their favorite star in a more lighthearted type of role. The movie also makes a great statement at how the legend can sometimes overshadow the reality and at how people will sometimes perceive things the way they want to see them as opposed to the way they really are.

from noon til 3 2

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 8, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Frank D. Gilroy

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Cold Sweat (1970)

cold sweat

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chuck won’t be intimidated.

Joe Martin (Charles Bronson) is a man living with a past. Ten years earlier he was part of a prison break led by corrupt Captain Ross (James Mason). Joe was selected as the getaway driver, but after he witnesses one of them kill a police man he decides to drive off with the car and strand the others. Now he is living the quiet life in the south of France with his new wife Fabienne (Liv Ullmann) and her daughter Michele (Yannick Delulle), but as he starts to settle into his new lifestyle he finds that the old gang has tracked him down. They want him to be the boat driver in a drug deal they have planned and they won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Fabienne and her daughter Michele are brought along for collateral, but Joe has a trick up his sleeve and instead kidnaps Ross’s girlfriend Moira (Jill Ireland) and puts her in an isolated cabin and when all parties converge onto the place is when the tensions and action boils over.

This is a simple film with the most basic of storylines. The characterizations are standard with no gray areas in-between. The good guys are really good and the bad guys really bad and nothing is ever nebulous as the tried and true formula gets followed from beginning to end. However, I liked it. Sometimes it is nice to have a film that isn’t trying to reinvent the genre and does things in a compact, crackling non-think style where the viewer can sit back and enjoy an old fashioned white knuckler without having to be challenged. After a slightly awkward start the film begins to roll and then never lets up. Chuck puts his gruff, stoic caricature to the hilt here helping propel the viewer emotionally into the action as he finds increasingly novel ways to overpower the baddies just as the odds look stacked against him.

Having him married to Ullmann was offbeat casting, but it works. Ullmann who has quite possibly one of the most expressive faces in all of cinema seems game for the proceedings. It was nice seeing her in something different than a brooding Ingmar Bergman drama. She gets right into the fray and becomes an integral part of the story and succeeds quite well.

The always reliable and many times brilliant Mason sports an American accent and its fun. He also takes part in a great death scene that gets amazingly prolonged until his increasingly pale complexion becomes genuinely disturbing.

Ireland shows flair as a jaded hippie type. Her and Chuck’s sparring clicks and casting the real-life couple as characters with animosity for the other is cute. I just wished that director Terence Young had played it up more and given Ireland more screen time.

Having the second half of the film take place almost exclusively at an isolated locale gives the picture added personality, but what impressed me the most was the action. In particular was a car chase along the long, winding French roads. I know the car chases in Bullitt and The French Connection get the honors for having the best and most famous chase sequences, but the one here comes amazingly close. I found myself turning uncomfortably in my seat as Chuck’s car travels each curve at high speeds and when he takes the auto off the road and onto the rugged terrain I was out of breath. The foot chase between Fabienne and her daughter and one of the lone gunmen along the ragged, rocky landscape is equally exciting and well captured at different angles.

This one is sure to please Bronson fans as it has all the ingredients his films are known for. My only complaint is with the DVD transfer available on Amazon Instant. Normally I love the way Amazon has made available films that are hard or even impossible to find and most of the time picture quality is decent to good, but here it looks like someone’s old home movie with a color that is faded and at certain spots completely washed out. It also very grainy and looks like it was taken from an old film stock, or lost VHS tape. The less than ideal presentation unfairly taints what is otherwise a solid production that deserves a much better looking reissue.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 18, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Terence Young

Studio: Fair Film

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Someone Behind the Door (1971)

someone behind the door 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chuck has no memory.

This review will kick-off a two month long tribute to movies done in the 70’s by Charles Bronson with his wife Jill Ireland. Each Friday I will review one of their films, which will run through April. The only ones that will not be reviewed during this stretch are Love and Bullets, which was already done during our January tribute to Rod Steiger and The Mechanic and Hard Times, which will be done at a later time.

This film is one of the more unusual ones that they did and although not completely successful may still interest Bronson fans simply for a chance at seeing him in an offbeat part. The story concerns neurosurgeon Laurence Jeffries (Anthony Perkins) who takes in a man (Charles Bronson) who has lost his memory and has no idea who he is. Laurence decides to exploit this issue by brainwashing the man into thinking that Laurence’s cheating wife Frances (Jill Ireland) is actually his own and to take action by killing the woman’s lover (Henri Garcin).

The film has a great idea, but the set-up is much too rushed. We are given no backstory to any of the characters. The film opens with Laurence leaving his hospital job and by chance bumping into the man and taking him home before we even know what his motive or plan is. I also found it a bit perplexing that the Dr. character is supposedly conniving and crafty and yet he brings a man into his house while his wife is there sleeping in another room as well as their maid downstairs, which seemed reckless. When his wife awakens the next day and tries to go into the room where the stranger is Laurence panics, but I felt he should have been aware of that potentially happening from the very beginning. He also dictates his plans into a tape recorder, which seemed like prime material to be used for evidence later on.

The psychological side of the story is shallow and transparent. The way Laurence tricks the man into doing his evil bidding was too easy. I realize that the man has lost his memory, but it seems like he has lost his entire brain as well. The character is too child-like and gullible. I also thought that if the man cannot remember his wife and doesn’t know her from anyone else then why would he care if she is fooling around with someone, or get so over-the-top angry about it.

Bronson can be perfect in certain roles, but this is not one of them. Yes, he has a certain likable quality here simply because he plays such a vulnerable and trusting wide-eyed innocent, but the angry emotions that he displays are too rehearsed and over-acted.

Ireland on the other hand is attractive and alluring and comes off well though her part is minimal.  The nude photograph of her lying on a sofa that is shown in close-up is sexy.

The film has very little action especially for a Bronson vehicle though the part where the Bronson character sexually attacks Ireland and then the film intercuts this with him simultaneously attacking another woman on a lonely beach is interesting. The ending though is pathetic as it leaves everything wide-open while resolving nothing. The sequence where the camera cuts quickly back and forth between Perkin’s face and then Ireland’s, which is shown continuously over the closing credits is irritating and almost like the filmmaker’s wanted to drive the viewer as crazy as the kooky characters.

With that said I still found the film to be entertaining most of the way. The idea is a fascinating one and it kept me guessing throughout. Director Nicholas Gessner does an adequate job of taking advantage of the gray countryside to create a nice moody feel. A definite mixed bag.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 28, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R

Director: Nicholas Gessner

Studio: Lira Films

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Love and Bullets (1979)

love and bullets

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chuck falls for Jill.

Jackie Pruit (Jill Ireland) the one-time girlfriend of mob boss Joe Bomposa (Rod Steiger) is being marked for death by him as she has the potential to turn states evidence. Undercover cop Charlie Congers (Charles Bronson) is hired to go to Switzerland and nab her before they do so that he can bring her back to the states and allow her to testify for the FBI, but along the way he ends up falling in love with her.

Ireland and Bronson where married in real-life, which is why this is just one of many movies that they did together during the 70’s. The strange thing is that they really don’t seem to have much chemistry. Bronson is much older and has more of a grounded, stoic personality while Ireland, at least here, comes off as ditzy and flighty making it seem more like a father and daughter relationship than two equal adults.  The ditzy behavior of Ireland’s character is not amusing or interesting and eventually becomes annoying making most men want to kill her instead of falling for her. Her character initially wears a wig and gaudy make-up, but Charlie insists that she take it off and when she does he states that she looks much better, but personally I thought she looked better with it on.

For whatever reason the Bronson character does not use a gun and is required to resort to unusual weapons for defense one of them being a standing lamp that he finds in a hotel room. He takes off the top and bottom of it and then uses the middle part as a pipe in which he blows nails through to kill off the bad guys. Initially this seemed like a neat idea, but I found it hard to believe that he would have such good aim and able to hit victims from several yards away. He also makes himself highly conspicuous walking around the busy streets of Zurich carrying a pipe.

Steiger gives another interesting performance. Although his character is the villain Steiger manages to give him depth and a humanistic quality. He speaks with a stutter and wears big glasses making him seem almost like a lovable galoot. The part where he stresses over ordering the hit on Jackie and at the end when he sits alone watching a classic romantic movie and insists that he not be interrupted for any reason are two of his best moments.

The supporting cast is full of familiar faces, but Bradford Dillman and Henry Silva are wasted and Michael V. Gazzo gets killed off too quickly. Paul Koslo has the perfect face for a cold-blooded hit man and it is neat seeing Strother Martin dive into the water because in his younger years before he got into acting he was a gifted diver and almost even made it onto the Olympic team. His death scene is good because it is done from his perspective as he is pushed under water giving the viewer a definite drowning feeling.

The action and story are standard and the scenic wintry landscape of Switzerland can help it only so much. The explosive finale gives it a few points, but the drama is weak and the action is only fair. Nothing real impressive and made for die-hard action fans only.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: September 14, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Stuart Rosenberg

Studio: AFD

Available: VHS, DVD (Region 2), Amazon Instant Video