Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

1966: The Chase, Hurry Sundown, Harper ...

Here's 3 big dramas from that terrific year 1966 - see previous posts below. I didn't see either THE CHASE or HURRY SUNDOWN (filmed in 1966, released here early 1967) at the time, but remember liking HARPER or THE MOVING TARGET as it was called here, with Paul Newman as Ross McDonald's laconic private eye, with 4 terrific dames in tow (Bacall, Janet Leigh, Julie Harris, Shelley Winters). First though, Penn's riveting THE CHASE, a Sam Spiegel production for Columbia, scripted by Lillian Hellman from Horton Foote's story - add in a powerhouse cast and a John Barry score and watch sparks fly ...

The moral foundation of a small Texas town is torn apart in this explosive drama about power and greed. Sheriff Calder isn't the only person chasing Bubber Reeves when he escapes from prison. Oil and cattle baron Val Rogers wants Bubber out of the way to cover up the love affair between his son Jake and Bubber's wife Anna. THE CHASE is on. When bigotry and booze propel the townsfolk into a vigilante mob, Calder's wife tries to convince her husband that he doesn't have to bring Bubber in alive. But the sheriff is fighting for justice and he won't be stopped until the shattering climax. No one escapes untouched in acclaimed director Arthur Penn's action-packed drama. 

That about sums it up .... the stunning cast here comprises Brando in one of his better '60s roles (he was back in the deep south the next year in Huston's REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE, in a totally different role and milieu... as we will discover in due course), with Angie Dickinson terrific as ever as his wife. Brando has another great scene where he is beaten up (as in ONE EYED JACKS); the town bullies are a venal mob fuelled by booze and their dissatisfied wives - Martha Hyer is terrific as a drunk, and Janice Rule scores too. Miriam Hopkins has some good moments as Bubber's mother, E.G. Marshall is the local Mr Big with Robert Duvall an employee. At the centre of the film though are a terrific trio: young Robert Redford as blighted golden boy Bubber, Jane Fonda in one of her better roles as his wife, having a long romance with Jake, - James Fox, surprisingly effective in this milieu, after his roles in THE SERVANT and KING RAT (see below). 
The core of the film is the meeting of this trio at the local junkyard before the mob turn up .... the drunken violence that escalates is brilliantly depicted by Penn - who of course went on to BONNIE & CLYDE next. I don't know why I didn't see this at the time, I would have enjoyed it a lot, with that cast - but its certainly worth seeing now. For a 1966 film it also prefigures those political assassinations in 1968 - as one just knows what is going to happen as Bubber is being brought in. The portrayal of small-town bigotry, duplicity, jealousy, betrayal, and infidelity is well-done, with great scope and colour, and the spectacular junkyard climax is a chilling finale.... the ironic aftermath shows the Sheriff and his wife leaving town, which is certainly a circle of hell as depicted here.  THE CHASE aims for significance and I think achieves it, a key mid-'60s American film, whereas HURRY SUNDOWN falls flat on its face, a hilariously awful cartoon ...
Jane Fonda was back down south in Otto Preminger's production HURRY SUNDOWN, which is a prime slice of southern trash now. This is a much reviled film and finally seeing it one can see why .... as in THE CHASE the 'n' word is used a lot (as of course was 'fag' in those movies like THE LOVE MACHINE). This though is a lurid potboiler with all the usual Preminger finesse, which Horton Foote also had a hand in writing. Otto is a curious case, after his '40s classics like LAURA and his "interesting" '50s films like CARMEN JONES he seemed to hit his peak for me with ANATOMY OF A MURDER and ADVISE AND CONSENT (review at gay interest label) (I missed and never cared for EXODUS) while THE CARDINAL was more tedious histrionics (but at least had Romy Schneider) .... I still have one of his last and reputed worst SKIDOO to see, some rainy day, or snowy night by the fire ...

The dramatics on show here play like a demented comedy now as we watch Alfie and Barbarella and her blonde angel with Bonnie Parker ... Michael Caine is the hissable cartoon villain and Jane Fonda is wasted as his wife, apart from that scene with the saxaphone! are the rich folk, while John Philip Law in dungarees and Faye Dunaway in her first main role are the dirt poor relatives on that plot of land which Caine just has to get for the evil company who wants it and the neighbouring plot by poor but honest black folk Robert Hooks and his soon-to-expire mother, Beah Richards, who was Fonda's Mammy. Sassy Diahann Carroll is soon on their side as unscrupulous Caine will stop at nothing, not even that Southern accent of his!
This is comedy drama with broad brushstrokes as the whites are depicted as venal and corrupt and bigoted, and the blacks are all noble salts of the earth .... Burgess Meredith chews scenery as a corrupt judge with Jim Backus on the side of the good folk, while George Kennedy is the sleazy local chief of police, fond of getting down with the coloured folks, and Madeleine Sherwood reprises her Sisterwoman from CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Fonda finally comes to her senses and leaves her snivelling husband who has one more ace up his sleeve in flooding the land .... while Law and Dunaway share their passion on his return from combat overseas - this is all supposed to be 1945 but hardly looks it. HURRY SUNDOWN is a delicious piece of southern fried trash then - one should ask friends around and serve appropriate food and drink and howl along with it .... particularly when Caine is in full panto villain mode ...

HARPER: Lew Harper, a cool private investigator, is hired by a wealthy California matron to locate her kidnapped husband. Jack Smight's 1966 thriller is still a nifty piece of cinema catching Newman in his prime - remember how he retrieves yesterday's coffee grounds from the trashcan to make some more coffee, as the credits unroll?. This time the in-joke is that it is Lauren Bacall as the rich dame who hires him to solve the case (she played the daughter of General Sherwood who hires Bogart in THE BIG SLEEP), Janet Leigh is effective as his ex-wife frying those eggs, Shelley Winters is the ex-child movie star "who got fat", and best of all, Julie Harris as the junkie jazz singer singing that song "Living Alone", words by Dory and music by Andre Previn (they also did "You're Gonna Hear From Me" from that year's INSIDE DAISY CLOVER (Natalie Wood label), another Warner biggie then. 
Add in Robert Wagner, Rober Webber, Strother Martin and sizzling young Pamela Tiffin and the scene is set for a tightly-plotted detective scenario. Smight of course went on to the delicious NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY (Remick label). Newman is in his prime here after HUD and went on to LADY L with Loren, and COOL HAND LUKE, and of course had done TORN CURTAIN with Julie Andrews for Hitch ...the one Hitch movie I had no interest in seeing. Good to see him here with marvellous Julie Harris (see Harris label), he had tested for EAST OF EDEN, as per those tests with James Dean. Nice also to see Jacqueline De Wit again (the fearsome Mona Plash in ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, Rock Hudson label).
HARPER is still a terrific movie with a great cast in their prime, even for non-Newman devotees like me, and catches that mid-'60s vibe nicely (where Americans were growing Beatle haircuts and dancing the frug) like the next year's IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT. Photographed by Conrad Hall with a cool score by Johnny Mandel.

Next 60s: SHIP OF FOOLS, THE COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG, and more Deep South shenanigans with REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE, TOYS IN THE ATTIC and SUMMER AND SMOKE, and Lumet's THE SEAGULL and THE DEADLY AFFAIR - '60s dramas at their best then.

1 comment:

  1. I've always been fond of The Chase which I know had a fractious production history and does seem to be coming from many points of view. To me the ladies are the main attraction with Jane looking sensational and I agree giving one of her best early performances, Janice Rule could not be cheaper and more vulgar if she tried and Miriam Hopkins seems to have noticed that there was not a strongly focused directorial eye with all the in fighting and decided to consume parts of the scenery whole in her final scene, always enjoyable.

    As far as Hurry, Sundown goes that mint julep melodrama is a hooty delight. I suppose that at the time it was meant to shine a light on racial injustice but it just comes off as a overbaked soap opera. Preminger was the wrong director for such a piece of honeyed excess, it's the type of thing at which Douglas Sirk excelled and could make trenchant observations while still entertaining the masses. Jane Fonda's honeychile accent comes and goes but I still found her enjoyable. And even as a sharecropper's wife with four kids Faye Dunaway manages to look ravishing. It's a mess and I don't think I'd ever watch it again but it was good for one viewing.

    I'm going to have to catch up with Harper again, its been years and my memory of it is vague although I remember liking it. With that cast it would be hard to hate.