And You Thought It Was Safe(?)


Magnum Force (1973)
"...especially when it comes to tedious Crime Dramas."

“…especially when it comes to tedious Crime Dramas.”

Blanket Spoiler Warning for a forty year old film you should’ve already seen. But, then again, who am I to talk? I’ve seen pieces of Magnum Force over the decades, and everyone’s seen the clip of Harry saying, “Man’s got to know his limitations” for the third and final time, buttoning up Our Theme. That clip’s the next-to-last shot of the film so, in one sense, a thousand Eastwood Retrospectives have already spoiled it in more ways than I ever could, just talking about it.

So let’s talk about Magnum Force, the One With Those Other Vigilante Cops Who Don’t Play By the Rules. The film that exists explicitly because everyone called Dirty Harry fascist. It’s star, a self-described “political nothing” who now admits registering with the official Political Nothing Party (the Libertarians) took all the “fascism” talk personally. Especially since an early draft of Dirty Harry‘s script centered around, not a psycho killer vaguely based on Zodiac, but a gang of vigilante cops much easier to confuse for fascists than Hangdog-faced Harry.

Eastwood liked that script, but Don Siegel preferred the one with Scorpio. And America agreed, making Dirty Harry the fourth highest grossing film of 1971, right behind Diamonds Are Forever. With Dirty Harry only eight million dollars less popular than James Bond, a sequel was inevitable. Or so we’d say on this side of the 1970s, a decade that, among other things, saw sequels gain a measure of acceptance in polite company. They’d always existed, of course, but Hollywood A-listers and cultural pundits shunned them as fundamentally low, pulpy things. Besides, Big Name Stars put butts in movie theaters, not on-going stories. The very idea was regarded as silly, the kind of notion that drove “silly,” “juvenile” stuff like superhero comic books. Movies, the thinking went, could certainly be better than that…couldn’t they? Continue reading

Advertisements


Revenge of the Creature (1955)
Does this bug you? I'm not touching you.

Does this bug you? I’m not touching you.

Lest you think there was ever some magical time when sequels were automatically good, I submit this film as evidence you’re even more deluded than I am. They can’t all be Bride of Frankenstein, and I wouldn’t dare ask it of them. All I ask is that they not be dull. Too much to ask of Universal in 1955, that’s for sure. Am I being unfair? Probably. But when I get bored, I get even surlier.

I don’t know what happened in the time between this and its predecessor. Nearly everyone behind the camera returns for this second go-round. I don’t want to blame director Jack Arnold, who did competent work on an undoubtedly tight schedule. I’m tempted to blame screenwriter Martin (Green Grass of Wyoming) Berkeley, but I’m sure an army of Bronies will trample me to the dust if I say an unkind word about anyone involved with the Flicka series. So I’m forced to blame producer William Alland, who gets “story” credit on this, even though he heard the man-fish legend from cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa back in the 40s. So who really deserves “story” credit for these movies? No, honestly, I’m asking you. I’m just gonna be over here, reviewing this movie while you think up your response.

The “story” picks up a year after the events of Creature from the Black Lagoon, with Capt. Lucas (Nestor Paiva) once again steaming a pair of gringo scientists up “A TRIBUTARY IN THE UPPER AMAZON” (as the location card says). This year’s gringos are Joe Hayes (John Bromfield) and George Johnson (Robert Williams), self-proclaimed expert fish trappers from the (fictional) marine institute/theme park (or “Oceanarium,” as they insist on calling it) at Ocean Harbor, Florida. They’ve come to the titular lagoon to capture the titular creature. After some initial setbacks they take a page from the Redneck Dynamite Fisher’s Handbook and succeed, knocking the Creature unconscious with the concussive blast from multiple cases of high explosives. Continue reading



Dirty Harry (1971)
Is a caption for this really nesessary?

Is a caption for this really necessary?

It’s one of the most-quoted films of all time, the basis for entire sub-genres, and the film most directly responsible for giving Clint Eastwood a post-Spaghetti Western career. Yet you’d be hard pressed to find five people in the same place who’ve actually seen Dirty Harry for what it is. I, for example, had never seen it in its entirety until last week. That’s what happens when you spend your childhood watching shitty monster movies (or even good monster movies, for that matter).

I got burnt out, is the thing. Wrestling with Captain America really got to me, but considering what it did to Christopher Lee, I got off easy. So I decided to recharge my batteries by reaching back to a now-officially-classic piece of American film making. It was time to plug one of the more-obvious holes in my personal cinematic education. It was time to start counting shots. Continue reading



Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

"Let the hero born of woman crush the serpent 'neith his heel..."World War II films and I have an understanding: I don’t watch them and they can go on propping up whatever brand of historical whitewashing is popular at moment. Rare is the film that consciously sets out to subvert the usual tropes of their perpetually John Wayne genre, or the deification of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest” Generation. Whenever such a film emerges from the vacuous, exploitative, corporatist, Hollywood hive it is duly acknowledged by critics, nodded at by the Academy Awards…and promptly forgotten about. Case in point:

Begun as a companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, Letters hopes to turn the American War Film upside down by dramatizing the Japanese side of the Battle of Iwo Jima, just in time for its sixty-first anniversary, with all the historical histrionics that entailed (on both sides of the Pacific). Opening sometime in 1945, the film attempts to (and largely succeeds at) do(ing) for the Honorable Imperial Army of Japan what Das Boot did for German submariners: portraying them as actual human beings trapped in a horrific situation. And since I can’t think up a proper joke to end this paragraph, I’ll go for the long hanging fruit and ask how many Bella Swan’s does it take to screw in a lightbulb? {More}