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The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976/1978) June 30, 2014

Posted by badblokebob in : Drama, Thriller, Crime, 4 stars, 1970s, alternate & director's cuts, Film Noir: Pre/Post/Neo/etc., 2013 , add a comment

2013 #61

I still have almost half-a-dozen reviews left to post from 2013, so here’s one of them — John Cassavetes’ “idiosyncratic thriller”.

Mad Max (1979) May 29, 2014

Posted by badblokebob in : Action, Thriller, Sci-fi, Crime, 2014, 4 stars, 1970s , add a comment

2014 #20

You won’t like him when he’s mad. (As the past few years’ news stories have demonstrated.)

Dawn of the Dead (1978) October 29, 2013

Posted by badblokebob in : Horror, Action, Drama, 5 stars, 1970s, 2013 , add a comment

2013 #94

If Night of the Living Dead created a genre, Dawn of the Dead inspired everything that followed in it.

And Now for Something Completely Different (1971) May 30, 2013

Posted by badblokebob in : Comedy, 3 stars, 1970s, British films, remakes, 2013 , add a comment

2013 #51

Monty Python re-film TV sketches for the big screen.

Bit ironic, considering the title.

#30: Serpico (1973) October 29, 2012

Posted by badblokebob in : Drama, Thriller, Crime, adaptations, 3 stars, 1970s, true stories, Biography, 2012 , add a comment

Al Pacino stars as honest cop Frank Serpico in Sidney Lumet’s true-story crime drama…

#38: The Day of the Locust (1975) September 18, 2011

Posted by badblokebob in : Drama, adaptations, 4 stars, 1970s, films about films, 2011 , add a comment

1975 | John Schlesinger | 137 mins | TV | 18 / R

The Day of the LocustAdapted from the novel by Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust is a slightly scrappy film about the seedy underside of Hollywood’s golden age. The plot is neither here nor there in many respects — the film is about the grotesques who are attracted to Hollywood, and that being exactly what it feeds on. The bizarre, surreal ending definitely makes more sense if you’re already thinking about the film in this way.

The magnificent riot at the end is a tour de force of cinema that single-handedly almost justifies that whole theme — it’s what happens when their frustrations at dreams not being realised overflows. It could be argued it makes an easy juxtaposition — of fans baying for stars at a premiere with a revenge-fuelled mob baying for blood — but it’s still a just one. It’s capped off by the way one turns into the other, and how that turns into a kind of apocalypse. I don’t know how it’s meant to be read, but I choose to take it that way

(Spoilers in this paragraph.) If the riot is a literal apocalypse, then the next scene becomes an afterlife-set coda. It’s very brightly lit and white, like a Heaven, and Faye is still there — still in Hollywood, exactly where she’d dream of being — while Tod is gone. She’s looking for him, back at the Bernadoo where she was kinda happy, and she wants him after all — but he’s not there; he doesn’t want her. Homer Simpson. Not that one.It’s a tenuous reading for a film that seems to be a real-world drama, maybe… but not a wholly unsupported one — it’s a flat-out unusual scene.

Also brilliantly staged is the collapse of a Waterloo battle set. Appropriate as it’s one of the novel’s most memorable moments.

Despite having top billing, Donald Sutherland’s part is a beefed-up supporting role. Except he’s so good in it that he fairly steals the film. And despite fourth billing, William Atherton is ostensibly the main character. I don’t know if the film takes lengthy asides from him because they cast a fourth-billed-level actor, or if they cast a fourth-billed-level actor because the film takes lengthy asides from him, but either way these long-feeling stretches away from the only character we’re really encouraged to identify with dilute the film’s drive. Primarily for this reason, it could do with being shorter. Interestingly, the novel is a mere 163 (in my edition), meaning the film is close to translating it at a rate of a page per minute, which is rather extraordinary — very few adaptations do so little condensing.

Who ya gonna call?(You probably recognise William Atherton from slimy supporting roles in Ghostbusters and the first two Die Hards. Believe it or not, his Ghostbusters character is available as an action figure. That is madness.)

It may be a mess, or it may be a flawed masterpiece. It may very well be both. For much of it’s running time it pootled along at 3 stars, pushing down toward 2 the more diluted it began to feel. But seeing the completion of Donald Sutherland’s performance in the final scenes, plus the way those scenes seem to draw together the whole film, revealing and fulfilling themes I hadn’t even noticed developing until that point, in a spectacular orgy of apocalyptic violence… well, the stars suddenly ratchet back up.

4 out of 5

The Day of the Locust is on Sky Movies Indie tonight at 9:30pm, and at various other times throughout the week.

#36: High Plains Drifter (1973) June 29, 2011

Posted by badblokebob in : Western, 4 stars, 1970s, 2011 , 2 comments

1973 | Clint Eastwood | 101 mins | TV | 18 / R

High Plains DrifterThat this is the first Western directed by perennial Western star Clint Eastwood is enough to make it worthy of note. To be honest, I’m far from immersed enough in the history of Westerns to know if anything else makes it worthy of note either; but I did like it.

The film doesn’t begin how one might expect. Clint rides into town — OK, that bit you would — has a beer and a bottle of whiskey — OK, that bit too — kills three men for no good reason and rapes the only woman in sight. Hm. It’s a fine introduction to our ‘hero’. But instead of setting the sheriff on him, the townsfolk bend over backwards to help him (more or less). Why? Are they as uncaring as he? Or do they need something from this capable man? Turns out, a bit of both.

As the story progresses we get a gradual unveiling of a mystery in the town’s past, hinted at in flashbacks and dreams; who was responsible for it, what the others did about it — or didn’t do. It’s all revealed nicely across the course of the film, leading to a finely staged conclusion in a vision of Hell. Eastwood’s real motivations for taking the job of protecting the town become clearer… that is, clearer while still remaining mysterious. There may not be definite answers to all the questions, but some people here need punishing and Eastwood’s come to punish them.
Rope, for catching drifters
That said, tonally it’s quite odd. There’s a lot of violence and horrid behaviour, but it contrasts with a lot of dismissive humour. The raped woman attempts to kill Eastwood in revenge while he’s in the bath — not a tense stand-off, but a chance for a joke. Similar things occur when he abuses the privileges given to him by, say, tearing down the barn. Shades of grey are all well and good, but this juxtaposition of light and dark is a little too high-contrast.

Clearly Eastwood has a taste for the mystically-tinged Western, as here he’s even less coy about the story’s supernatural possibilities than he would be 12 years later in Pale Rider. Not by much, perhaps, but it’s nonetheless clear that he’s some kind of angel/devil/ghost/natural force: he emerges from the heat haze like a mirage, and disappears back into it too; he dreams of past events before he’s told about them; and he has no name, of course — this is an Eastwood Western, after all. That’s not to mention the ton of mentions of the devil, Hell, the dead not resting…

Lago - HellEastwood’s first Western in the director’s chair is obviously influenced by those he’s worked with when on the other side of the camera, but by making sure the mix is a bit dark, somewhat ambiguous, but also gratifying in turns, he crafted a supernaturally-tinged revenge tale that packs a few satisfying punches.

4 out of 5

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