#291 Point Blank

Watched: January 23 2021

Director: John Boorman

Starring: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, Carroll O’Connor, John Vernon, Sharon Acker

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 32min

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Walker (Marvin) is double-crossed (by his wife and best friend, no less!), shot and left for dead during a heist at the abandoned Alcatraz prison. He somehow survives and escapes, and is now determined to get his $93 000 back from “the Organization.”

“I AM Judge Judy and executioner!”

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He kills his way through a bunch of crooks and crime bosses, outsmarting them at every turn, all the while repeating his mantra of “I want my money.” Which, spoiler alert, he never gets. But he manages to fuck enough shit up that the people who stole from him won’t be able to enjoy it either. Which is a sort of a win itself, we guess. Although not a very satisfactory one.

About as satisfactory as emtying your chamber in the unoccupied bed of your treacherous ex-wife. We assume. We’ve never experienced the former as all our revenge plots have gone off without a hitch.

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As is tradition, in between kicking ass and taking names, he manages to entangle himself with a Dame, in this case his wife’s sister Chris (Dickinson). Keep it in the family. Smart man.

“I cannot believe my own brother-in-law is all the milkshake brought to the yard. Step up your game, milkshake!”

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We loved the sort-of-non-linear storytelling, Lee Marvin’s strong silent man routine, Angie Dickinson’s… Angie Dickinsonness, Lynne’s monologue when confronted by her “late” husband, and of course we’re suckers for a good revenge story.

“If you think about it, I’m the real victim here. I mean, I had to watch you die. Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to backstab you like that?”

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Our pet theory: Walker is a terminator. His escape from certain death, glitches in memory/patchy, non-linear thinking, and single minded determination to achieve his agenda are all testimony to that. Or, he is possibly just a very goal-oriented man. Either way Point Blank makes for a very entertaining watch, with its noir and French crime film influences and bad ass protagonist.

“I’ll be back. To watch the T-Birds beat the Scorpions in a drag race…”

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What we learned: If you’re going to double-cross and kill someone, make sure they’re actually dead. Also, just pay the man his money!

Next time: Poor Cow (1967)

#217 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Watched: January 11 2019

Director: John Ford

Starring: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, Woody Strode

Year: 1962

Runtime: 2h 03min

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Shinbone, somewhere in the Wild West. Senator Ransom Stoddard (Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Miles) arrive to attend the funeral of old friend and town loner Tom Doniphon (Wayne). Together with former sheriff Link Appleyard (Devine), they recount to reporters the reason they returned to pay their last respects to Doniphon.

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“That man could grow a cactus like no one I ever met.”

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Flash back 25 years, and Stoddard is an idealistic lawyer ready to start his practice in the then lawless Shinbone. On the way into town, his stagecoach is ambushed by local gang leader Liberty Valance (Marvin). After refusing to yield to the bully, Stoddard is brutally beaten and left to die in the desert. He’s found by Doniphon and nursed back to health by Hallie.

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“I have a good mind to throw this dish in your face, you dirty rotten scoundrel, you!”

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Once he recovers his strength, Stoddard decides to go ahead and open his law practice, as well as start a school to teach all the locals to read, something Valance is not happy with. Doniphon tries to tell Stoddard that he needs to use force in order to deal with the outlaw, but Stoddard is sure that the only way is the way of the law. Meanwhile, romance blossoms between “Ranse” and Hallie, although Doniphon is also in love with the only eligible woman in town.

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After all, Hallie is of Norwegian ancestry. We’re scientifically proven to be irresistable [citation needed].

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The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a wonderful and tense Western where philosophies collide with the transition from old to new ideals. On the one hand, we have the old west represented by the rugged, stoic and righteous gunslinger Doniphon, and on the other we have the new hero and male ideal: the educated, sensitive and refined Stoddard.

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The two have much to learn from each other…

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Stoddard woos the girl and wins over the townspeople by teaching them about history and politics, and how to better themselves. Meanwhile, badass macho man Doniphon protects them with force and his own form of love: he works hard to build his farm in order to have something to offer Hallie, but he never actually got around to asking her to marry him, or to ask her what she actually wanted from him.

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She might have married him ages ago if he ever actually thought to ask her

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There are some not-so-subtle references to all men being created equal, which would have been very timely in 1962 and, sadly, also in 2019, and which we absolutely loved. We also loved James Stewart, but then again, we always do…

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Even injured and in an apron, 10/10 would marry!

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This movie has it all: sassy women (mother more than daughter), bad criminals, intriguing politics, a stoic gunslinger, a young idealistic educated man, a love interest, and a bumbling town marshal. And once again, we find ourselves loving a Western classic. Fantastic stuff!

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He’s only an elected official – he can’t make decisions on his own!

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What we learned: That they used “dude” in the 1800s in the Wild West. Also, a beer is not drinking.

Next time: The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

#126 Bad Day at Black Rock

Watched: August 19 2017

Director: John Sturges

Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, John Ericson

Year: 1955

Runtime: 1h 21min

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The tiny town of Black Rock is amazed to see the train actually stop for the first time in four years. Even more puzzled, and suspicious, are they to find a stranger getting off in search of a hotel room and a cab to take him to Adobe Flats.

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“I vote we just kill him now and get it over with. There’s no way we can share our one female resident with yet another man.”

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The stranger, John J. Macreedy (Tracy), is met with hostility from all sides, mainly led by Reno Smith (Ryan) who everyone seems to be afraid of. The hostility increases when Macreedy reveals he is looking for a Japanese-American farmer named Komoko, and he is served a story of Komoko being relocated in the wake of  Pearl Harbor.

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Pictured: tension. And not the homoerotic cowboy movie kind.

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As Macreedy is trapped in the town for the night and all lines of communication with the outside world are sabotaged by local followers of Smith, vet/undertaker Doc (Brennan) is the only one willing to help him. Doc reveals that Komoko is dead, although the details of his death are still unknown to our hero.

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Hint: there’s racism and bigotry at work. Thank God the world is not plagued by those kinds of outdated ideas anymore!

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Smith and his croonies, most notably Coley and Hector (Borgnine and Lee, respectively), no longer operate under any pretense of innocence, and the chances of Macreedy surviving the night grow smaller and smaller.

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It doesn’t help that our hero is a one-armed man trying to fight a pissed off Ernest Borgnine

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Bad Day at Black Rock is an exciting and tense murder-mystery-western with a crime at the centre of the plot which is strangely (and sadly) relevant to our own times and political climate. Macreedy is a stoic badass, yet you’re never sure things will go his way or who he can trust. The men in this one-woman-town must make some tough choices and decide whether or not to make up for the mistakes that were made four years ago.

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It’s hard to see how anything at all could happen in a town this small, let alone something horrible

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There’s nothing not to love about this film. It’s shot in Eastman Color and Cinemascope, and beautifully so. There are car chases, shoot-outs, bar fights, Dames (well – just the one dame, actually), murder, mystery, and mayhem, and we loved everything about it. Loved it!

What we learned: This is a local town for local people. There’s nothing for you here! Alternatively, they don’t take kindly to strangers round these there parts.

Next time: Blackboard Jungle (1955)

#117 The Big Heat

Watched: June 24 2017

Director: Fritz Lang

Starring: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Lee Marvin, Alexander Scourby, Jocelyn Brando

Year: 1953

Runtime: 1h 30min

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Detective Sergeant Dave Bannion (Ford) has it all – a good job, a happy marriage and a lovely young daughter. That is, until officer Tom Duncan commits suicide and Bannion starts to investigate, uncovering layers and layers of corruption and deceit.

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He’s also invited to uncover other kinds of layers, if you catch our drift

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Those who cooperate with Bannion tend to die shortly thereafter, which makes him suspicious that the suicide may not have been as straightforward as initially thought. Even his superiors tell him to back down, which drives his determination to get to the bottom of the circumstances of his colleague’s death, as well as the extent of the mob’s influence on the police force.

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Methods include, but are not limited to, threatening widows. (PS: check out the decorative lamp in the background. Classic!)

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When Bannion’s wife is killed by a bomb intended for him, and his boss suspends him for not complying with orders and accusing him of being on the mob’s payroll, our hero quits his job and goes on a one man mission to bring down the local gangster Lagana (Scourby) and everyone connected to him.

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Cornering people in pubs is a tried and tested investigatory method in many a film. It usually ends in violence.

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One of Laguna’s thugs, Vince Stone (Marvin), has a girl he does not treat right – Debby Marsh (Grahame). After a confrontation between Bannion and Stone in a bar, Marsh, the obligatory scorned female, joins forces with her lover’s enemy.

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She pays the price though, poor girl…

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We absolutely loved this film! Bannion is an early incarnation of the disillusioned-cop-with-nothing-left-to-lose-who-goes-after-the-bad-guys-on-his-own, and he is perfect. We watched it with our parents (family time!) and all four of us were at the edge of our seats for the entirety. It’s thrilling, exciting and intriguing – everything we look for in a Noir.

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There’s also real tragedy and innocent victims

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On top of it all, it is directed by freakin’ Fritz Lang, the man behind two of our favourite entries on the list – M and MetropolisWhat’s not to love?

What we learned: If one side of your face is scarred, you can always go through life backwards. Also, good friends will come through in the end.

Next time: The Naked Spur (1953)