Richard Lutz finds the toughest TV film of the week on his 90″ flatscreen.
Okay folks, let’s cut to the chase and set the controls for the heart of film noir.
The daddy of them all is on the box on Monday night: Point Blank (TCM, 21.00) with lugubriously vicious Lee Marvin hitting town. And boy, this is as hard boiled as a five year old overcooked egg embedded in concrete and diesel.
I mean the mayor of Toughguy-ville is so nasty that his character’s parents never gave him a first name. He is simply called Walker. And Walker wants his $93,000 after being betrayed by fellow gang members and sent to jail.
He finally walks, does Walker, and seems to wipe out half of San Francisco and LA to get the stolen loot that is his. It’s his, you see, and that’s his morality. It’s the right thing to do when you’re a robber.
Point Blank, released in the early hours of 1968, has real pedigree. Marvin shines. It’s his best role. It’s directed by London boy John Boorman (Deliverance, French Connection II) and the diamond hard script is by another Brit – Alexander Jacobs, a former pro cyclist whose face was smashed in during the Tour de France.
Marvin trusted these two immigrants with this American tale mired in revenge and anger. MGM handed him total control. He asked if that included the all-important final edit. They nodded. Marvin said okay, let Boorman make all decisions and walked out to start production.
The Limey pair ripped up the old mediocre script and produced a masferpeice that used a fragmented jumpy timeline and sharp editing and bare landscapes to create what some considered to be dream-like or nightmarish. Marvin is chasing a baddie one second, is in prison the next and lying on the ground wth a gun to his head the next as the traitorous gang do the dirty on him.
Is the whole story in Marvelous Marv’s head? Is he still in jail? Is he actually dead and going over his pointless hardcore life? Whew, once intellectual pointy heads get ahold of a film, they never let go.
There’s solid back-up in this jagged 50 year old film: Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, Caroll O’Connor and, my favourite, Adolphus Raymondus Agopsowicz.
He’s better known as John Vernon (good move Aggo, on the name change). He strode the Stratford stage In England as Malvolio and actually may be better known as slimy college boss Dean Wormer in Animal House or a vacillating SF mayor in Dirty Harry. But here, he is the crook who betrays our boy Walker. We hate him.
Well, does Walker get his $93,000? Times, it seems, changed while Marv was in the clink. Things have got corporate and bad guys just don’t stride around with dollar bills in their belts. It’s invested in Wall Street. But does he get the effing money? Well, does he?
He finds it’s tougher outside than inside. Life is a hell you have to deal with. Especially when you have former pals who say things like: “Don’t worry about Fairfax. He’s dead. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
Filmic Footnote: A few months after Point Blank hit the screens, another movie premiered. It was Bullitt with cop Steve McQueen. Imagine that San Francisco car chase if the two movies were merged and Steve had to corner our Marv… Just thinking, that’s all.