Tag Archives: Rene Clement

And Hope to Die (1972)

and hope to die

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kidnapping a dead girl.

Tony (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is on the run from a gypsy group out for revenge and as he is being chased by them he encounters another group of criminals headed by Charley (Robert Ryan) who after some conflict take him into their fold and gives him the nickname of Froggy. Their plan is to kidnap a teen girl who is set to be the star witness at a trial of a major head of a criminal organization. Unfortunately she commits suicide before they can get to her, so they pretend that she is still alive and go through the motions of the kidnapping so as to be able to collect the payout by the organization that hired them.

This is the second of director Rene Clement’s trilogy dealing with the theme of kidnapping. The first was The Deadly Trap and the third being Scar Tissue. Of the three this one is the best mainly because of its many offbeat touches. The wry sense of humor, which is deftly interwoven into an already intricate plot, is terrific and helps make the entire thing engaging from beginning to end. My favorite parts include a contest that Froggy plays with Charley where he can stand three cigarettes on end straight into the air, which he can do with ease while Charley can’t despite his repeated efforts. The eulogy that Charley gives during a makeshift burial of one of their cohorts is priceless and the action isn’t bad either including an exciting sequence in which the group walks across a thin ladder hundreds of feet in the air that connects one skyscraper to another.

The characterizations are well done and played to the hilt. Trintignant plays another one of his outsider-looking-in roles and the way he manages to mesh himself into the group that is initially reluctant to have him is quite amusing. Aldo Ray is a scene stealer playing the gang’s resident bonehead and Tisa Farrow, who is Mia’s younger sister and looks almost like she could be her twin, is appealing in her role as a volatile young lady who knows how to use a gun and not afraid to shoot it whenever she gets the least bit riled.

The actual kidnapping, which is based on the novel ‘Black Friday’ by David Goodis, doesn’t occur until the final thirty minutes with the first hour dealing exclusively with Froggy’s assimilation into the group, which may sound boring, but really isn’t. In fact there is very little about this movie that I didn’t like and my only complaint would be the lackluster ending that doesn’t offer much of a payoff. Otherwise I feel this is a great example of how to mix humor with action, but still managing to keep things believable, fresh and inventive.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 15, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Rene Clement

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD (Region 2)

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

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.

rider on the rain 2

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