Tag Archives: Walter Matthau

Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

lonely are the brave

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: A modern day cowboy.

Jack Burns (Kirk Douglas) is a loner cowboy still trying to live the lifestyle of the old west in the modern day world and who must elude the police and all of their modern technologies when he escapes from jail.

Kirk is excellent. He really connects with the character and allows the viewer to do the same. The cinematography is first rate with spectacular shots of the western landscape. The cowboy’s escape through the rugged terrain as well as the police pursuit is exciting most to the way and there is a terrific well-choreographed barroom brawl between Douglas and actor Bill Raisch who later went on to star as the one-armed man in ‘The Fugitive’ TV-series. This is also a great chance to see some young actors just starting out including Carroll O’Connor and Bill Bixby.

On the negative end I wasn’t too crazy about Walter Matthau and William Schallert as the two policemen who are played too much for laughs. Some of their goofy exchanges are amusing, but it hurts the tension. I also disliked the ending. It does indeed leave an impression and was obviously done to make a statement, but it is not completely effective and is a real downer. It also leaves too many issues open including whether the Douglas character was able to survive.

The high production values help immensely and the story structure keeps things interesting and offbeat as well as exciting. The film though cannot overcome its ending, which isn’t very original and no more profound than hundreds of other stories and movies dealing with the same subject.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 24, 1962

Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes

Not Rated

Director: David Miller

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

House Calls (1978)

house calls

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Playboy tries mending ways.

Walter Matthau is by all means an incredibly talented performer and a joy to watch. However, in the looks department he rates pretty low and may be one of the ugliest leading men this side of Don Knotts. Yet this film practically shoots itself in the foot from the very beginning by portraying, with a straight face, Matthau as a doctor who has become a super hunk/chick magnet. All the hot young women are chasing after him! His locker is filled with their love letters and he actually beds a different one each night!!! Problems ensue though when he falls for Ann (Glenda Jackson) who is one of his patients. She is a middle- aged woman who is a bit ‘rough around the edges’. She wants him to drop his playboy ways and commit solely to her, yet he is not sure he can.

This is an overly smug, ‘sophisticated’ comedy that is too light and easy going and in desperate need for a fuller story and little more conflict. The comedy should have been broader instead of just being a long precession of glib one-liners. There’s a few comic set ups that are never even followed through on. However, Art Carney’s eulogy to a dead baseball owner and their subsequent burial of him underneath home plate is good.

The casting of Jackson is one of the few inspired things about this film. Her sharp British wit is a perfect foil to Matthau’s laid-back style, but it doesn’t play it up enough. Their one true ‘confrontation’ doesn’t come until the very end and although the spat is definitely contrived it does at least offer the lively fun you expected of this from the very beginning.

Another problem with this film is that it tries to mix the old fashioned romantic comedy with modern day sensibilities. The silly ‘goof ups’ at the hospital really don’t seem so funny when only a few years earlier these same problems were shown in the excellent film The Hospital with much more serious ramifications. It also looks awkward to have such ‘old school’ middle-agers suddenly jumping into the trendy ‘70’s lifestyle of casual sex and one-night-stands.

There is also the stilted habit of referring to sex as ‘humping’. This seems like a very dated, antiquated term even for back then. Let’s face it this is a slow moving comedy made specifically for adults and kids really wouldn’t want to see it anyways, so striving for the ‘PG’ rating was futile. They should’ve sucked it up, accepted the ‘R’ rating and called sex ‘fucking’ like everybody else.

Jackson and Matthau were later reunited in the 1980 film Hopscotch.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 15, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Howard Zieff

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD