Friday, May 27, 2016

The Worms Are Waiting, the Red Queen Decrees :: A Beer-Gut Reaction to Arrow Video's Emilio Miraglia Double-Feature of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972)

Emilio Miraglia worked his way up from script supervisor to assistant director through the course of about two-dozen genre films, shifting between crime dramas [The Terrorist (1963), Wake Up and Die (1966)] and sword and chuckable-styrofoam-boulder epics [Goliath and the Dragon (1960), Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun (1964)], before settling into the director’s chair for his most famous two-punch combo of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) and The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972). Serving as writer and director for both films, Miraglia’s end result are a bizarre mash-up of a gialli and Gothic melodrama with serpentine plots that are nigh impossible to unravel as they try to devour their own tails, which are then almost completely undone by one (or two or six) plot twist(s) too many.

To be fair, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave only has one twist but it’s a real slobberknocker that is saved for the climax where things get a bit … messy. Before we spill that milk, we begin with a wealthy English aristocrat named Alan (Steffen), who has recently been released from an asylum after a lengthy stay for suffering a nervous breakdown when he caught his wife, Evelyn, having sex with another man. Seems Evelyn has now passed on, and Alan’s doctor (Stuart) feels his patient is ready to be integrated back into society. But the high-strung Alan is still obsessed with his wife, holding seances to try and contact her spirit (-- that appear to be working), and bringing hookers and strippers, all ringers and surrogates for his late, red-haired wife, back to his palatial estate for his own private therapy sessions, where he gives the nickel tour that always end up in the old ancestral dungeon where the host kinda Hydes-out, whipping his victims before restraining and killing them -- or does he?

See, we always cut away before Alan puts the final exclamation point on these interludes, with him waking up later, alone, somewhere on the grounds, suffering from a seeming lycanthropic hangover with no real memory of what he’s done and no evidence of his deeds to be found. Despite all of this odd behavior -- some might even call it psychotic, his doctor insists Alan is fine; and with the encouragement of his cousin Farley (Raho), Alan decides to get married again, taking Gladys (Malfatti), another *ahem* ‘exotic dancer’, as his wife. And while this seems to calm Alan down considerably, sinister forces seem to be conspiring against Gladys. And once the hired help is ruled out, husband and wife begin to suspect the rumors of Evelyn’s death might’ve been greatly exaggerated. And then these suspicions take us by the hand and lures everybody into a final ambush of double-crosses, gaslight revelations, and an inheritance grab with a climax where things really get twisted into an intractable knot of “You have gotta be kidding me”. Wow.

Watching these kind of euro-sleaze thrillers is like playing a game of chess with the directors who are behind them. After several lengthy moves -- some strategic, others brazen, while others daftly stupid -- and after you’ve spent all that time keeping track of the pawns (-- the victims), rooks (-- the red herrings), bishops (-- the bumbling police force) and knights (-- the protagonist), shifting around the checkered field, trying to make heads or tails out of what your opponent is trying to show you, in the end, when we reach the end of the movie, the director tends to put his finger on his own king and leverages the board into tipping over, scattering the other remaining pieces, then rights it, takes his finger off the still standing king and declares himself the winner. It’s a twist, sure, but it’s also a big old cheat and completely unfair to those playing along and trying to pay attention. And thanks to the ambiguity of that final big twist, the implications of who gets away with what at the end of The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave are a bit scurvy and, dare I say, a bit of a buzzkill. It doesn't help that Miraglia has an eye for a certain type of woman, which resulted in all of his actresses looking nearly identical, making it hard to deduce who we're looking at half the time.

Luckily, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times is a lot more coherent. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it made sense by any means -- well, sort of, and once again his actresses are all ringers for each other, but at least the five-car twist pile-up at the end isn’t a cheat as we find out who was behind the killer’s mask all along. Here, Miraglia really finds a proper balance between Bava’s old school chills and Argento’s sensuous violence. We begin in the past where two feuding sisters, Kitty and Evelyn, get a time-out from dismembering each others dolls long enough for Grandpa Wildenbrück (Schündler) to explain a macabre painting that relates to a centuries old family curse involving two sisters known as the Red and Black Queen. Seems the Red Queen was killed (-- more like put down) but, according to the legend, she rose from the dead and killed seven people in the Wildenbrück circle. AND! This curse appears to hereditary as it cycles around every 100 years, with two more sisters coming under the homicidal influence, with seven more people killed to mark the deadly anniversary. AND! This curse is due to strike again in ten years time in 1972.

We warp ahead, then, only to find out Kitty (Bouchet) kinda jumped the gun on the curse, having accidentally killed Evelyn (Guido) during one hellacious cat-fight. And with the help of her older sister, Francesca (Malfatti again), and her husband, Herbert (Korda), they cover up the crime, hiding the body in a secret chamber deep in the bowels of the family castle and convincing everyone else that the sister moved to America. But this help comes at a price as Kitty must forfeit any claim to the family fortune once their grandfather finally kicks the bucket. And this he does, helped along the way by a mysterious woman in a red cloak, who looks a lot like Evelyn, and who, essentially, frightens him to death. But at the reading of the will, there’s a snag as the old man’s final instructions prevent any disbursement until 1973 when the curse has officially passed. Meanwhile, the same lady in red starts slashing her way through Kitty’s colleagues and business associates at a modeling agency. And while all evidence, motive, and eye-witnesses accounts point to Evelyn being the Red Queen, we all know that’s impossible, right? -- Right?

Sure, there are other suspects, including Kitty’s boyfriend (Pagliai), his estranged wife currently secluded in an insane asylum, and a bevy of models (-- including a young Sybil Danning); but these red-herrings have a tendency to get bumped-off just as each come under suspicion. And as we barrel toward the climax, there’s some last second revelations on some precautions Grandpa Wildenbrück took to derail the curse before it struck again, meaning someone wasn’t who we thought, and points the finger at the real culprit, who in turn was being manipulated by someone else looking not just for a bigger piece of the inheritance but the whole pie. This, in turn, leads to one helluva climax that involves Kitty being lured and locked in the castle basement that is currently being flooded as part of the killer’s wild endgame. Now, some clumsy editing nearly short-circuits everything but this is overcome by the ambitious nature of the scene, that presciently plays out like the climax of The Drowning Pool (1975), as the door is forced open, saving Kitty but wiping out nearly all of her rescuers in the resulting deluge.

When I received Arrow Film’s Killer Dames boxset I was under the impression that I had not seen either Miraglia film before. Turns out that’s only half true as The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave rang a few bells and I finally traced it to a severely truncated and even more nonsensical version seen on the tube, back when our NBC affiliate used to rotate it and The Whip and The Body (1963) -- under its alternate title of What!, every other Sunday night after the news in the late 1970s. And while there were a couple of nifty and effective set-pieces (-- especially when 'Evelyn' actually came out of the grave), of the two films I found The Red Queen ran circles around it co-feature, thanks in most part to a more likeable cast, the addition of Alberto Spagnoli as cinematographer, who really energizes Miraglia’s set-ups and maximizes the German locations, and a hideously infectious score courtesy of Bruno Nicolai. As always, Arrow Film throws in an incredible package of extras, including commentaries and interviews with several actors and the films' production designer, and a couple of featurettes where an expert is brought in to help the audience decipher what they just watched, making the whole package well worth your time. 

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) Phoenix Cinematografica :: Phase One / P: Antonio Sarno / D: Emilio Miraglia / W: Fabio Pittorru, Massimo Felisatti / C: Gastone Di Giovanni / E: Romeo Ciatti / M: Bruno Nicolai / S: Anthony Steffen, Marina Malfatti, Enzo Tarascio, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Umberto Raho

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972) Phoenix Cinematografica :: Romano Film :: Traian Boeru :: Cannon Film Distributors / P: Elio Di Pietro / D: Emilio Miraglia / W: Fabio Pittorru, Emilio Miraglia / C: Alberto Spagnoli / E: Romeo Ciatti / M: Bruno Nicolai / S: Barbara Bouchet, Ugo Pagliai, Marina Malfatti, Nino Korda, Sybil Danning, Rudolf Schündler

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Favorites :: Ensemble Casts :: The Cracked Eggs in Shane Black's Hard-Boiled Neo-Noir The Nice Guys (2016)

As each trailer broke for Shane Black's The Nice Guys (2016) my expectations kept nudging for the roof. And they soon got so high I had to try and rein them in because there was no way the film could be that good -- I would've settled for half as good, honestly. Well, caught this last night and I am still buzzing on it today. This was so, so, SO good, you guys. Violent, hilarious, and in the end an extremely endearing picture all wrapped around a mystery secreted inside a conspiracy tucked in the middle of a vintage porn loop lost in the smoggy haze of 1977 Los Angeles. Crowe and Gosling are just great, exceeding even my wildest expectations, but Angourie Rice kinda stole the movie out from under them. And once you see it, and you really should, you will find that was no small task. That kid is gonna be a ha-yuge star someday. 

A friend asked if it was as good as Black's similar Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005). I think it compares very favorably with that film but it will require at least one more viewing to make the call on which one was better because I fear I missed some things, drowned out by the audiences laughter, my own included. And I also look forward to seeing it again just to soak up all the little period details: from the busted up Hollywood sign (destined to be torn down and replaced the very next year), to the Smokey and the Bandit and Airport '77 billboards, to the decadence of the porn producer's party, to the AMC pacer at the auto show, to the books on the shelf and the records on the wall in Holly's bedroom. And I encourage you all to go and see this movie, especially those that are always bitching about how there's nothing to see anymore except superhero movies, animated kids movies, or the sequel to the latest YA book adaptation. C'mon, people, lets make sure it isn't another decade before we get a treat like this from Black and co. again. These nice guys deserve at least a five picture franchise. Go. See this. NOW!

The Nice Guys (2016) Misty Mountains :: Silver Pictures :: Waypoint Entertainment :: Warner Bros. / EP: Ken Kao, Michael J. Malone, Hal Sadoff, Anthony Bagarozzi / P: Joel Silver, Ethan Erwin, Aaron Auch / D: Shane Black / W: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi / C: Philippe Rousselot / E: Joel Negron / M: David Buckley, John Ottman / S: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Kim Basinger

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Great Villain Blogathon :: Red Leary and the Necessity of Evil in Michael Cimino's Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

We open big in the Big Open of rural Montana, where a young drifter manages to flim-flam his way into a new car, duping a small-town dealer into a permanent test drive. Meanwhile, not far away, a pastor holds sway over his small congregation in an old clapboard church, dug in like a tick on the side of a lonely road, that could probably double as a box for matches the other six days of the week. But this portrait of bucolic serenity is suddenly and viciously interrupted by the intrusion of an armed stranger, who quickly aerates the church. His true target soon becomes clear as the man seems hell-bent on putting a slug into the fleeing preacher, who quickly abandons the pulpit and his flock as he breaks for the horizon on foot in a bid to stave off a permanent case of lead-poisoning.

Salvation comes with the serendipitous arrival of the young drifter, who hits the pursuing gunman while trying to avoid running over his intended victim. Finding it odd that someone would want to gun down a man of the cloth, Lightfoot (Bridges) eventually coaxes the truth out of the “preacher” (Eastwood) after they flee the scene together. Seems this man he inadvertently rescued is none other than John Doherty, the notorious “Thunderbolt”, a gaudy moniker coined by the local press for a daring robbery pulled-off several years back where they used a 20mm anti-tank cannon to blow a hole into an otherwise impregnable vault and made off with nearly a half a million dollars. After the completion of this successful heist the team of robbers split up, the loot safely hidden away in an abandoned one-room schoolhouse to be recovered and divvied up later after the heat has long died down, with the Thunderbolt patiently marking time, hiding in plain sight, posing as a pastor.

And a solid plan it was, too, until, in an effort to heat up this cold case, the authorities recently leaked a false report that the money had been recovered; and since Thunderbolt was the only one left alive who knows where the loot was hidden (-- the ringleader having recently died of a heart attack), the other three surviving partners, figuring he ratted them out to the cops, are now gunning for him (-- well, the last two, now, since Lightfoot accidentally ran one over), leaving Red Leary (Kennedy), an old friend and fellow Korean war vet (-- explaining the familiarity with the military-grade weapon), who is also a complete psychopath, and his toady, the slightly incompetent, nearly incontinent, and wardrobe-challenged, Eddie Goody (Lewis), to finish the job.

Thus and so, with romantic outlaw notions dancing in his otherwise empty head and the potential of a life with easy access cash, Lightfoot is soon determined to learn the tricks of the trade from the older, reluctant, and claiming to be retired thief. And as they dodge several brazen assassination attempts from Leary, they make a play for the stash of money only to find the schoolhouse gone, apparently demolished to make way for a new, more modern facility. They are then abducted at gunpoint and driven to a remote area to be executed. But the brutish Leary wants his pound of flesh first. And then somehow, between punches, Thunderbolt manages to convince his former partners (neither the brightest bulb in the world) that the cops lied and how the money is now gone, either destroyed or in someone else's pocket. And as an uneasy truce settles and these three men fume over this misfortunate ending to an otherwise perfect caper, Lightfoot has a sudden brainstorm and a solution to all of their problems, suggesting, Why don’t they all just team up and pull the exact same heist off again...

Before it cratered after he became the architect of one of the biggest boondoggles in Hollywood history, the meteoric trajectory of Michael Cimino's film career began with pitching-in on the script for Silent Running (1972), Douglas Trumbull's impassioned sci-fi plea for environmental conservation -- you know, the one with Bruce Dern and those adorable robots, which he co-wrote with Deric Washburn and Steven Bochco. This was immediately followed up with a script-doctoring assignment, where he and John Milius were brought in to punch up Harry and Rita Fink’s script for Magnum Force (1973), the first sequel to the wildly popular Dirty Harry (1971), which had helped cement Clint Eastwood’s reputation as a leading man, a sure-fire box-office draw, and a giant pain in the ass. Or as director Ted Post put it while shooting Magnum Force, “Clint’s ego began to apply for statehood."

Apparently, Eastwood liked the changes Cimino made to Magnum Force, and so, with that in mind, Stanley Kamen, an agent for William Morris, pitched an idea he thought was tailor-made for Eastwood -- a crime-caper, filled with women, booze, and manly men being manly men -- to Cimino, hoping he could flesh out this spec-vehicle for a package deal for several of his clients, Eastwood and Bridges included, to tackle next. This, the writer did, drawing inspiration from one of his favorite films, essentially making Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) a loose remake of Douglas Sirk’s Captain Lightfoot (1955), a swashbuckling adventure which focused on a young highwayman who joins up with a grizzled pirate (Rock Hudson, Jeff Morrow) who steal money to support the Irish revolution, which he then combined with the popular existential road movies of the day like Vanishing Point (1971) and Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), and then he even chucked in a few elements from Eastwood’s earlier heist movie, the hilarious and harrowing Kelly’s Heroes (1970), which as a comedy is a pretty good war movie and as a war movie it's a pretty good comedy and, hands down, my favorite heist movie of all time.

Now, the end result of this mash-up makes the film hard to classify exactly. As Anthony Moretta states in his essay, Redheads and Pistachio Ice Cream, “Cimino crafts a heist flick inside a road movie built around a buddy film that is funny, poignant, tense and sad. It’s also allegorical [in that] the title characters are symbolic of the human cycle. Birth, reclamation, re-birth, redemption, death, and all of the good and not so good in between.” Heady stuff, indeed, but what really mattered is that Eastwood loved the script; and loved it so much he wanted to make it his next directing project after Play Misty for Me (1971) and High Plains Drifter (1973). Here, the film ran into its first snag as Cimino would not sell the script unless he was allowed to direct it. Eastwood agreed to a meeting with the brash and cocky wannabe director and listened to his pitch, the two hit it off, and the actor agreed to let Cimino direct the picture on the condition the film fell under the umbrella of his own production company, Malpaso, which led to the second big snag in the film’s origin.

Seems Kamen had already pitched the proposed vehicle to Warner Bros., who normally helped finance and distribute Malpaso’s product; but they turned it down flat, feeling it wasn’t marketable as an Eastwood picture. When the actor got wind of this, in a fit of temper, he quickly struck a two picture deal with United Artists. And after scouting out several scenic locations in Montana, filming commenced. And while Robert Daley was officially listed as producer, Eastwood wasn’t shy about calling the shots and reining in his novice director, who was already showing signs of the obsessive perfectionism that would be his undoing on Heaven’s Gate (1980). Three takes was usually all he got before Eastwood shut him down. And if another actor asked for a fourth take, Cimino would have to ask his star if it was okay first.

Despite these obstacles, to this very day the eccentric director has high praise for Eastwood, saying he owes his career to the chance he took on Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. And while there was some friction behind the scenes, in front of the camera the chemistry just crackles between Eastwood and Bridges, who play off of each other so well in a father / son, sensei / student sense in this hard-boiled backwater noir. From the very beginning of shooting Eastwood sensed that Bridges was constantly upstaging him, which he kinda does; but this stays in perfect tune with their characters with the exuberant, proto-Dude Lightfoot and the too old for this shit, worn down to the nub Thunderbolt. And to Eastwood’s credit, he let Bridges get away with this. But when Bridges would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, this really annoyed his co-star, who felt he deserved a nod, too. Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t, but what most people tend to overlook with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is how George Kennedy (and to a lesser extent, Geoffrey Lewis) stole the film right out from under the both of them. Because it is my opinion that Kennedy’s Red Leary is the backbone on which this film draws its true strength from, which is why I picked him, out of a film filled with nothing but charismatic villains, as my spotlight choice for The Great Villain Blogathon.

Now, those of you who are scoffing, pull up a chair and hear me out. First off, I love George Kennedy, whose presence tends to elevate anything and everything he gets involved with. Usually a second or third banana, it didn’t matter; the guy was a true professional and always left his mark be it a classic like Charade (1964), or as my man Patroni in the Airport franchise (1970, '75, '77 and '79), or exploitation classics like tick...tick...tick... (1970) or delightful trash like Savage Dawn (1985) or Nightmare at Noon (1988). And while he didn’t do it often, when Kennedy actually got to play the bad guy he showed an incredible penchant for violence, a terrifying sadistic streak, and a true sense of place as to where this anger and hatred comes from that needs to be pointed out and treasured. Remember his take as the conniving handy-man who made the mistake of trying to blackmail Joan Crawford in Straight-Jacket (1964)? Or how about that time he played that right bastard of a deputy in Lonely Are the Brave (1962); or that time he took an axe-handle to the face to prevent him from gleefully drowning a man in The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)? Hell, the man deservedly won an Academy Award as the degenerate Dragline in Cool Hand Luke (1967). And then there’s Red Leary.

On top of all those other influences, there’s also a lot of Donald Westlake in Cimino’s script for Thunderbolt and Lightfoot: a certain implied code of conduct between criminals, the intricate planning, the long drawn out staging, and then the execution of the crime itself, leavened with a ton of quirky characters, salted with bits of humor and comical errors like a Dortmunder caper and then punctuated by the harsh eruptions of violence of a Parker plot when things go awry. 

Early in the film Thunderbolt gives his protege a brief rundown on Leary: he’s been in prison on multiple occasions, once for stabbing a woman, another for a botched robbery. He’s someone you’d want to have in your platoon but you’d never want to be on his bad side. I’m telling ya, Kennedy really makes this repellent sonofabitch tick, easily sliding between comical buffoon to vile neanderthal. He’s mercurial, which makes him highly unpredictable, which, of course, makes him all the more dangerous.

Unfortunately for Lightfoot, Leary takes an immediate disliking to him. This matter is then exacerbated by Lightfoot’s constant taunts as they set-up the second heist, which must be slightly adjusted since their electronics expert was accidentally run over and killed in the first reel. All four men get menial jobs to build up a stake to get the equipment needed to pull off the heist, which leads to one of my favorite scenes in the film where Leary and Goody, posing as an ice cream man, are confronted by some snot-nosed punk, who is promptly told by Leary “To go f@ck a duck.” 

In film parlance, these are the schmucks you need around to make the heroes seem more heroic. And when you team the volatile Leary up with the nebbish Goody, in a bizarre take on Laurel and Hardy (-- I love the constant, terse, one-sided exchange of "What do we do now, Red" and “Shut up, Goody”), you have the perfect foils for our title characters.

Aside from the spry Lightfoot, you’d be hard pressed to believe that these sad, old, broken down men could organize and pull off directions to a grocers let alone a bank heist but pull it off they do, like clockwork, including a fairly hilarious bit with Lightfoot in drag to seduce and subdue an obese clerk who monitors the alarms. And while the robbery itself goes off without a hitch it is during the getaway where everything falls apart as old animosities bubble to the surface, fueled by adrenaline, and they are betrayed by a simple sneeze and an untucked shirt tail.

Here, Leary proves the weak-link when the wheels fall off. In the build-up to the robbery, this ticking time-bomb stupidly exposes his face to more properly gawk at two naked teenagers in the middle of intercourse at the bank manager's house before taking them hostage. And when the alarm is raised on them as they try to hide in plain sight at a Drive-In theater, not for being suspects in the nearby robbery, but on suspicion of sneaking people in hidden in the trunk, and they make their break, Goody is shot in the back. And without hesitation, Leary coldly tosses him out of the car, leaving him to die alone on a dirt road. He then turns on his other two partners, pistol-whipping his old friend Thunderbolt before laying a savage beat-down on Lightfoot, including several kicks to the head. He then abandons them in a pasture, taking the car and the money and hotfoots onto the highway. But there’s no way out as the dragnet herds him back into town, where he eventually wrecks the sedan into the department store where he had worked as a janitor and subsequently “gets his” as he is torn apart by another vicious animal when one of the guard dogs attack and mauls him to death.

But even in death the specter of Red Leary still looms large as the film reaches its final coda. For, while Thunderbolt and Lightfoot manage to get away, they get away empty-handed and there’s something obviously wrong with the younger man, who is still feeling the effect of Leary’s big kiss-off. But karma seems to come around again when they’re dumped off in the middle of nowhere where it just so happens a one-room schoolhouse was moved en masse and re-planted as a folksy tourist attraction. Dumbstruck, the men manages to scare off the other tourists and, sure enough, the money from the original heist is still there. But there will be no happy ending, or drives into the sunset for our two heroes. Instead, Leary manages to stomp a mudhole in the viewer’s chest when Lightfoot’s sustained injuries cause a fatal stroke, just as he was thanking his one and only friend for this grand adventure and share a victory cigar. “Thunderbolt is the only one of the crew that gets away unscathed,” says Morretta. “But he has to carry Lightfoot’s death with him. Unfair and unprovoked. This is the snake that slithers underneath and is embraced by the ’70s.” A haunting end that only reinforces the indelible impact of one Red Leary.

When the film was released, audiences were equally bummed out by that ending. And while the film did respectable box-office it failed to live up to Dirty Harry or Magnum Force standards. For this, Eastwood put the blame on the poor promotions of United Artists, which officially scuttled any notion of a follow up feature, which was also supposed to be written and directed by Cimino. But don’t feel too bad, he landed on his feet well enough with a little something called The Deer Hunter (1978).

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot would eventually achieve Cult Movie status, too, and with good reason. All of the acting is superb, even though most of the other roles were nothing more than drive-bys. (Look for Dub Taylor as an apocalyptic gas station attendant, Gary Busey as lawncare specialist, and Catherine Bach as a reluctant hooker, and oh, holy crap, that interlude with the bumpkin and the bunnies.) But it’s Cimino’s burgeoning talent that really puts a stamp on this thing. His style is like a John Severin cartoon, highly stylized and yet photo-realistic with an intoxicating tone that is both nurturing and fatalistic -- with a true sense of bitterness, even insignificance when the actors and action are dwarfed by the gorgeous natural surroundings. (Ansel Adams by way of Jim Thompson, maybe?) The film has a visual pace of a raconteur painting a verbal picture with ten to twenty dollar words. (The opening shot is purple mountains majesty and amber waves of grain fer cripesake.) And while it feels slow -- patient is a better word, the film is still a lightning fast two-hour trip. Kino Lorber has it out on DVD now at a very reasonable price, and the picture looks so good I can only boggle as to what the Bluray must look like.

And thanks to that ending, I clearly remember my first encounter with Thunderbolt and Lightfoot as kid in the 1970s, catching it as a movie of the week on the old family Zenith. It made me so mad and very upset and it didn’t make sense. It wasn't fair. I also remember hating Red Leary for doing what he did; for ruining the movie. But as the years have gone by I’ve softened on him a bit. I understand him now. I get it. He didn’t ruin it. He made this movie go. He made it work. He’s still an asshole, but he’s a necessary asshole. All good villains have an impact. The great ones also leave a mark. Red Leary manages both. 

Sources: Redheads and Pistachio Ice Cream (Anthony Moretta); Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists (Steven Bach); American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood (Marc Eliot).

This post is my contribution to The Great Villain Blogathon, which was concocted and schemed by the fine folks at Silver Screenings, Speakeasy, and Shadows and Satin. Thanks to our gracious hosts for throwing out such a wide net for contributions. And I encourage you all to follow the linkage and check out all the other great entries, please and thank you.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) The Malpaso Company :: United Artists / P: Robert Daley / D: Michael Cimino / W: Michael Cimino / C: Frank Stanley / E: Ferris Webster / M: Dee Barton / S: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Bridges, George Kennedy, Geoffrey Lewis, Catherine Bach, Gary Busey, Bill McKinney, Jack Dodson
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