By Richard Winters
My Rating: 8 out of 10
4-Word Review: Robbing his own bank.
Thomas (Steve McQueen) is a bank executive who devises what he feels is the perfect crime. He hires five men who he does not know nor do they know each other to rob his bank in broad daylight and then dump the money in a trash can at a cemetery where he retrieves it. The heist works flawlessly, but then insurance investigator Vicki (Faye Dunaway) comes on the scene and she almost immediately eyes Thomas as the culprit. The two begin a torrid affair with Vicki openly telling him her suspicions and that she’ll do whatever it takes to prove it, but Thomas has other plans.
What makes this film stand out from all the other bank robbing movies is that the heist scene was shot using a concealed camera. Only the bank officials and guards were aware that a movie was being made while the rest of the people were actual customers convinced that what was happening was real making their reactions of fear genuine. The best part of this sequence though is when director Norman Jewison has the camera put onto a dolly and glides it through the tear gas that the thieves set off.
The film is famous for its use of the split screen particularly during the opening credit sequence as well as Michel Legrand’s award winning music. Legrand wrote the score after viewing a five hour rough cut and the movie was then edited to be in tandem with the music instead of being done in reverse, which is how it’s usually done. For me the music comes off as sappy and out-of-place making it seem more like a romance when it’s really a game of cat-and-mouse and the blaring score almost gets in the way of it.
The best thing is Dunaway and I really don’t care how many face lifts she may have had, or how many years it’s been since she’s had a relevant role because she’s still a great actress and her presence here proves it. She filmed this before her breakout movie Bonnie and Clyde was released and she takes complete control of every scene she is in. Her character also works in what was still traditionally perceived as a man’s role and thus making it kind of groundbreaking. I also like that she’s never seen as weak or vulnerable in the traditional feminine sense and instead remains quite determined and focused throughout while never swaying from using her femininity as a weapon and nothing more.
McQueen unfortunately, and I can’t believe I’m saying this as he’s one of my favorite actors, ends up being the film’s weakest link as the role goes against his rugged persona, which is what he’s good at. He had worked with Jewison before in The Cincinnati Kid and lobbied hard for the part, but Jewison rightly felt that character was not the right fit, but ultimately he relented, which was a mistake. The only time he is effective is when he’s doing his own stunts or driving on the beach in a dune buggy but otherwise he’s transparent and utterly dominated by Dunaway.
The supporting cast is good especially Jack Weston as a mope who gets hired on to partake in the robbery and then works as the clumsy catalyst that helps unravel it, but I was disappointed that his character ultimately disappears too soon and would’ve liked him to have remained for the duration. Otherwise this slick production, which was written by Alan Trustman who worked at a bank and would spend his idle time fantasizing on how to rob it, holds up well and includes the famous chess game sequence that still sizzles.
As for the 1999 remake, which changes many key plot points, I’ve never seen it nor do I have any interest to. Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo certainly make for an interesting pair, but I feel that if the original is a classic then it shouldn’t be touched and a law should be written disbarring remakes when they aren’t needed or asked for.
My Rating: 8 out of 10
Released: June 19, 1968
Runtime: 1Hour 42Minutes
Director: Norman Jewison
Studio: United Artists
Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube
Posted in 60's Movies, Classic, Heist Movies, Moody/Stylish, Robbing Banks
Tagged Alan Trustman, Entertainment, Faye Dunaway, Jack Weston, Michel Legrand, Movies, Norman Jewison, Review, Steve McQueen
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Boy loses his virginity.
During the summer of 1942 Hermie (Gary Grimes) vacations on Nantucket Island with his two friends (Jerry Houser, Oliver Conant) along with their parents. He soon becomes smitten by a neighboring lady named Dorothy (Jennifer O’ Neill) whose husband has just gone off to fight in the war. One day he offers to carry her groceries as well as help her out with other chores around her home. When her husband gets killed Hermie finds that he can be of service to her in other ways too.
The script was written by Herman Raucher and based on his real-life experiences while growing up as a teen on Nantucket Island. He had originally written the script in the 1950’s, but at that time no one was interested. It wasn’t until he met with director Robert Mulligan that the project got off the ground and even then the studio was reluctant to pay him anything up front and promised only to give him a percentage of whatever the film grossed. The film though ended up becoming a huge hit and made Michel Legrand’s melodic score almost synonymous with romances everywhere.
I enjoyed the film immensely when I first saw it back when I was in college, but now many years later I have certain issues with it and much of it is due to the Dorothy character. I felt she was was too naïve as she brings this 15-year-old boy in the form of Hermie into her home, but apparently no clue that boys at that age can have raging hormones and that he could quite possibly be viewing her in a sexual way. I felt that Dorothy should’ve shown a little more awareness to the situation and created boundaries from the start and been just a little more defensive than she was. Some may argue that she may have been attracted to the teen despite his age and secretly open to him coming on to her, but if that was the case it should’ve been made clear. In either event the character is too much of an enigma and playing off more like a fantasy figure than a real person.
These same issues continue during their eventual consummation, which ends up being the film’s most well-known scene. On a purely cinematic level I loved the moment because it nicely recreates a dream-like quality of a teen boy’s fantasy particularly by having no dialogue and only the background noise of the crashing ocean waves. However, the woman has just committed an intimate act with a minor that could get her into a lot trouble if it was ever found out. The next morning as the two are lying next to each other in bed she looks over at him and I would’ve expected some expression of guilt, confusion, or even fear, but none of that is conveyed. Also, the idea that getting news that her husband has just been killed would be enough to ‘disorient’ her and get her to submit herself to a teen boy who just randomly walks in is a bit far-fetched.
In the real-life incident Raucher describes it as occurring much differently. There Dorothy was highly intoxicated and yelled out her dead husband’s name several times. He also caught up with the real Dorothy many years later and she told him that she had been ‘wracked with guilt’ over what she had done long after it had happened. All of this makes much more sense and although it would’ve ruined some of the romantic elements it still should’ve been added in as it would’ve helped both the characters and movie become more multi-dimensional and believable.
The setting is another liability. Due to budget constraints it was not filmed on Nantucket, but instead Mendocino, California and the differences are glaring. The landscape is very dry and brown, which is something that would not occur on the east coast, which routinely gets more rain than the west. The voice-over narration states that they had “9 days of rain” that summer, so the foliage should’ve been green and lush.
On a completely superficial level the film still works. The performances are excellent and there are a few really funny scenes including Hermie’s visit to a drug store where he reluctantly tries to buy some condoms as well as his subsequent visit later that night to the beach.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: April 18, 1971
Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes
Director: Robert Mulligan
Studio: Warner Brothers
Available: DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Video, YouTube
Posted in 70's Movies, Adolescence/High School, Comedy/Drama, Movies Based on Actual Events, Romance, Sex
Tagged Entertainment, Gary Grimes, Herman Raucher, Michel Legrand, Movies, Nantucket Island, Review, Robert Mulligan
By Richard Winters
My Rating: 3 out of 10
4-Word Review: Heartbreak in the city.
Sheila Levine (Jeannie Berlin) is a recent college grad who moves to New York City in search of a more exciting and glamorous lifestyle, but finds a long line of heartbreak and empty opportunities instead. When her younger sister gets married before she does she becomes jealous, but refuses to give up and continues to strive to make her mark no matter how small it might be.
Based on the Gail Parent novel the film manages to hit a few marks. Her nagging mother and the exchange that she has with a job placement coordinator at an employment agency is good. However, the idea that a woman’s sole purpose in life is to get married and then not have to work afterwards is seriously dated and will not connect with today’s viewers.
The main character isn’t exactly likable either. She is bossy and intrusive with her roommate and seems to think that because she is a college grad that should entitle her to only ‘creative’ and interesting jobs that doesn’t involve typing. She is also strangely naïve as she gets picked up by a middle-aged man (Roy Scheider) at a bar, goes back to his place for sex and then somehow thinks that means he is in love with her and is genuinely shocked when he bluntly tells her that he was simply appeasing his ‘animalistic instincts’. We are supposed to feel sorry for her, but instead it’s more fun seeing her get slapped down.
Berlin is the daughter of Elaine May who was the queen of sardonic humor and I came into this thing with high hopes, but her performance is only so-so. She does indeed look very Jewish and the perfect composite of the Rhoda Morgenstern TV character and a young Joan Rivers. However, her incessant whiny and nasally voice may be too much for some.
Scheider manages to be pretty solid. I was never impressed with his acting range, but here he gives quite possibly his best performance in what is most likely his least known role.Sidney J. Furie’s lifeless direction though makes the production come off like a filmed stage play with scenes that seem to go on forever.
Michel Legrand’s melodic orchestral score is out-of-place and better suited for a romance. There is also a song with a funky 70’s sound that gets played at regular intervals and becomes increasingly annoying.
I was expecting this to be a quirky, dry humored comedy, but found it to be more of a stilted drama that relied too much on the obvious and at times became almost painful to watch. The romantic angle between Scheider and Berlin is unbelievable and ultimately quite corny, which impedes the film from achieving any type of true potential.
My Rating: 3 out of 10
Released: May 16, 1975
Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Posted in 70's Movies, Cold Climate/Wintertime Movies, Comedy/Drama, Movies Based on Novels, Movies that take place in the Big Apple, Obscure Movies
Tagged Elaine May, Entertainment, Gail Parent, Jeannie Berlin, Michel Legrand, Movies, Review, Roy Scheider, Sidney J. Furie