Double-featuring with Cotton Comes to Harlem, this is set in some of the same locations, driving past the Apollo during opening titles. And it’s a grim, joyless take on the same sort of story – cops and rival criminals all looking for stolen money, with a pair of cops as our heroes. This one replaces the humor and nudity with extra violence and racism, and yes it kills racist corrupt terrible cop Anthony Quinn in the final moments, but I got the feeling it wanted us to see this as a dark/unhappy ending.
Thieves dressed as cops rob a money room, killing everyone in it, and the Italians in charge want revenge – “We have to teach them a lesson, or we lose harlem.” Anthony Quinn is very mad that Yaphet Kotto is put in charge of his investigation, meanwhile Italian gangster Nick is reminding Black gangster Doc who pulls the strings, and the rest of the movie is Nick torturing the Black thieves and Anthony brutalizing Black suspects, while Yaphet and Doc stand by uncomfortably.
One weird thing about this movie: each character states their age aloud, I think the point being that everyone’s slightly desperate because they’re past the age when they should’ve been advancing in their organizations – or I’m giving the screenwriter too much credit.
I liked Paul Benjamin as the murderous lead robber (who throws his share of the cash to a playground full of kids as he’s dying) – he’d later play one of the three shit-talking corner guys in Do The Right Thing. His girl Gloria would play Maya Angelou’s sister in Poetic Justice, and Italian torturer Anthony Franciosa would star in Tenebre. Connections with Cotton: Doc’s enforcer Chevy led Cotton‘s five-man Black Berets group, and the robbers’ getaway driver Antonio Fargas (the first to die, after being extremely uncareful about throwing stolen money around) was in Putney Swope, which was shown playing on a marquee in Cotton. Shear followed up by replacing the fired Sam Fuller on The Deadly Trackers, which now I have even less incentive to watch.
Ossie’s feature debut, after screen acting throughout the 60’s, has great energy and is absolutely packed. Some clunky parts, but the nonstop motion and added comedy (unexpected after finding this in Criterion’s neo-noir section) easily win the day.
Just too much going on to address it all, or I’ll be up all night, but charismatic con man Reverend Deke is robbed, and it’s an inside job, the money stashed in a cotton bale. Deke ditches his girl Iris, who ditches the white cop guarding her by getting naked and pretending to seduce him, then she discovers Deke with another girl and spends the rest of the movie hunting him. The lead cops Grave Digger and Coffin Ed are trusted by the locals despite these nicknames, capably chasing Deke and Iris and the cotton and all the other mysterious characters. As in the next movie I watched, Across 110th Street, the Harlem Black mob guy has an Italian boss afraid of losing control. There’s a lot of punching and whacking and flying through the air, not too much shooting, a bit of blackface, and a surprising amount of bird tossing. The cotton ends up onstage at the Apollo, the centerpiece of a musical striptease act, junkman Uncle Bud gets away with the money and the Italian covers it, so the people get back the cash they were throwing at their beloved con man a couple days earlier.
The two lead cops (and the fool white cop) would return in sequel Come Back Charleston Blue. The Reverend Calvin Lockhart would quit acting after a couple David Lynch movies. Judy Pace (Iris) didn’t get a lot of roles, would costar in Frogs. Comedian Redd Foxx played Uncle Bud, would soon find steady work on Sanford & Son.
Photojournalist Jack Nicholson isn’t having a great time in Saharan Africa, sees an opportunity and grabs it, stealing the identity of his suddenly deceased hotel neighbor, the only other white guy in town. Jack’s abandoned wife Jenny Runacre (The Final Programme, Jarman’s Jubilee) investigates, while Jack faithfully follows the dead guy’s appointment book, even after learning that he was an arms dealer, and meets the same fate as the guy he’s impersonating, though he gets to hang out with Maria Schneider along the way.
Maria, Jack, Gaudi:
Thought I’d seen this a long time ago, but maybe I’ve confused it with The Conformist again. MA: “Actually, the entire story takes place in a short period of one day, from early morning until some time before sunset” – that’s not true, it’s set in four countries and we see a UK newspaper article about Jack’s death in Africa, and we see Jack’s appointments spread across a week in the book. Maybe he meant as the film was originally written. The fourth movie I’ve seen in the last few years to play in the 1975 competition at Cannes. Argh, the execution footage in this wasn’t faked.
Maybe Hitch has always wanted to be this explicit, and the times/censors just haven’t allowed it. This is his sweariest, nudiest, grimiest movie, starring nobody, about a woman-strangling sex maniac who frames his buddy for his crimes. Double featuring with Gun Crazy – this one is less naturalistic, or maybe people in Britain just talk like this.
Our guy Jon Finch (Polanski’s Macbeth the year before) is washed up and broke, tries to get cash from his ex (Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Lady Macbeth in a different production) right as she’s serial-killed, so Finch becomes the prime suspect. He’s caught but escapes, and the noble cops keep following leads even after his arrest, so justice is eventually served. Hitch’s particulars have changed, but the structure is standard. Some attempts at levity worked for me (Bob dumping a body in a potato truck, then getting taken for a potatoey ride while searching for an incriminating pin he dropped), and some did not (the lead detective’s wife serving trendy foreign cuisine to her crestfallen husband).
Necktie Killer Bob (Barry Foster of Twisted Nerve) and victim Barbara Leigh-Hunt:
Our guy Finch is also friendly with next victim Anna Massey (Peeping Tom):
The rare female non-victim with her cop hubby and Sgt Speerman:
Knots Landing and Family Plot star William Devane is a traumatized war vet who is pleasantly dispassionate to the investigating cops after his family is murdered and the killers run his hand through the sink disposal. Now with a hook hand, he gathers up war buddy Tommy Lee Jones and takes a revenge trip to Mexico.
Can pretty young Linda Haynes break through Devane’s armor? No
The year after Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader not a fan: “Schrader [says] he basically wrote a film about fascism, and the studio made a fascist film.” Looking up where I knew the director’s name from… wouldn’t have guessed Brainscan!
Competing groups arrive for a faithful abbot’s retirement, each scheming with one of the abbot’s protege monks to get their hands on the monastery’s priceless scroll. Such smooth editing, hard to find scene breaks as the whole thing flows together, and modern looking for 1979. Almost the entire cast was in King Hu’s Legend of the Mountain the same year.
Sailor Wen (Yueh Sun: City on Fire) brings thief White Fox (Touch of Zen star Feng Hsu) and tassel-face Gold Lock (Ming-Tsai Wu, a student in Fist of Fury). His rival The General (Feng Tien of Green Snake) brings cop Kuang Yu Wang (in a John Woo, a Wei Lo/Jackie Chan, and a “Bruce Li” the same year), who is archenemy to the newest monk, reformed criminal Chiu Ming (Lin Tung, the movie’s assistant director). Old master Wu Wai (Chia-Hsiang Wu, in movies since the 1940’s) may be up to something, or maybe just a distraction. Chiu Ming is made the new abbot and his first act is to destroy the scroll, and the villains go home unhappy.
Fox / Lock / Wen:
The cop gets his:
A panel of feminists is convened to rebut a Harper’s article written by shitstarter Norman Mailer. We didn’t do our homework and read the Mailer article first, but followed the arguments just fine. Anyway, amazon says it’s available as a 240-page hardcover, which they categorize under “Spies & Political Thrillers,” so what is going on.
1. Jacqueline Caballos runs a women’s advancement organization, gives a nice political speech.
2. Writer Germaine Greer is smart, funny and quick. She has a completely different approach to Caballos, who never speaks again.
3. Jill Johnston’s speech is like an SNL sketch full of jokes and references. She gets in an argument over exceeding her time, and after some makeout anarchy, leaves the movie forever.
4. Lit critic Diana Trilling knows Norman well, and seems to be the most balanced person onstage, not that that’s a high bar.
Norman’s an egoist who says he’ll fade into the background and let the women speak during the Q&A, but doesn’t – it doesn’t help that most questions and comments (including Susan Sontag’s) are addressed directly to him. Nice to spend some time checking in with the pop intellectualism of the 1970’s, unable to imagine this event taking place today.
Right after watching the season of Search Party with the incest-twink, everyone in this movie is in love with their relatives. Masuo (Kenzô Kawarasaki of Shinoda’s Himiko) is a flailing weakling at the center of a powerful doomed family. In his late 20’s his family picks a bride for him, she runs away and they make him go through the wedding ceremony alone, since all the guests had arrived. His friend and his aunt die, and bestie Terumichi (Atsuo Nakamura of Kwaidan and Kill!) leaves his wife Ritsuko then sails off and kills himself. I like Oshima’s anarchist youth movies better than the late prestige dramas – the voiceover is excessive and slows everything down.
I brought this book to read on the plane, but the book turned out to be a play, and I finished it before we boarded. It’s not much of a book – there’s mostly stillness and offstage sounds and atmosphere – so I thought I’d watch the newly-restored film while it was still fresh in my head. From the start the order of scenes is shuffled, opening with the beggar woman (never seen), the voices and music separate from onscreen action (not in sync with the scene we’re watching, discussing outdoor lights while the camera is indoors).
Delphine and Claude, with Mathieu Carrière (the guy being followed in The Aviator’s Wife) sitting up:
Delphine Seyrig plays the main character, what slight character there is, loved by both Claude Mann (the Bay of Angels star with blond 80’s hair) and, from afar, Michael Lonsdale (who was in two Losey movies the same year). Stillness, slow dancing and gradual lighting changes, the atmosphere finally broken by Lonsdale’s offscreen screams over an hour in.
Duras’s sixth feature as director, with great use of mirrors in the staging. The India Song itself, by composer Carlos D’Alessio, is great too. Nominated for Césars, losing to Black Moon and a Zulawski – a very arthouse year. Played out of competition at Cannes with Tommy, Moses & Aron and those Loseys, the year that Chronicle of the Years of Fire and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser took the top prizes. Super interesting and innovative – on the other hand it put me to sleep more than once – Dave Kehr called it “extremely boring in rather fascinating ways.”