Film Review – FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965)

Image result for for a few dollars more 1965For a Few Dollars More (1965; Italy/Spain/West Germany; Technicolor; 132m) **** d. Sergio Leone; w. Sergio Leone, Fulvio Morsella, Luciano Vincenzoni; ph. Massimo Dallamano; m. Ennio Morricone.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonte, Joseph Egger, Benito Stefanelli, Mara Krup, Klaus Kinski, Mario Brega, Aldo Sambrell, Luigi Pistilli, Panos Papadopulos, Roberto Camardiel, Luis Rodriguez, Tomas Blanco, Lorenzo Robledo. Two bounty hunters with completely different intentions team up to track down a Western outlaw. Follow-up to FISTFUL OF DOLLARS is more expansive and adds a subtle layer of black humour. Eastwood and Van Cleef make for a formidable pairing and their verbal jousting is enjoyable. Memorable scenes include Van Cleef’s humiliation of Kinski and the protracted shootout finale. Morricone contributes another top-class score. Not released in the U.S. until 1967. Followed by THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). [15]

Film Review – FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)

Image result for fistful of dollarsFistful of Dollars (1964; Italy/Spain/West Germany; Technicolor; 99m) ****  d. Sergio Leone; w. Víctor Andrés Catena, Jaime Comas Gil, Sergio Leone; ph. Massimo Dallamano, Federico G. Larraya; m. Ennio Morricone.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Mario Brega, Gian Maria Volonte, Marianne Koch, Jose Calvo, Wolfgang Lukschy, Joseph Egger, Sieghardt Rupp, Antonio Prieto, Margarita Lozano, Daniel Martin, Benito Stefanelli, Bruno Carotenuto, Aldo Sambrell. A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge. First of Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy is relatively low-key compared to its successors, but highly influential on the genre and demonstrates his trademark style. Eastwood’s presence is immediately apparent and the story is told with economy and style. Created inertia in the production of European Westerns – branded “Spaghetti Westerns” – with their anti-heroes and stylised violence. A remake of YOJIMBO (1961), which itself was based on the as yet unadapted 1929 novel “Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett. Not released in the US until 1967. Original title: PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI. Followed by FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965) and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). [15]

Book Review – IN THE LINE OF FIRE (1993) by Max Allan Collins

IN THE LINE OF FIRE (1993) ****
by Max Allan Collins (based on the screenplay written by Jeff Maguire)
Published by HarperCollins, 1993, 262pp
ISBN: 0-00-647856-5

Image result for in the line of fire max allan collinsBlurb: It was his job to safeguard the destiny of the nation. But at the crucial moment, Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan was a split second too late. Now, after a lifetime of second thoughts and second guesses, Frank Horrigan is about to get a second chance. And this time, he’ll be ready.

Movie novelisations were a common site on paperback shelves back in the days before home video. At the time they were the only way to relive a movie in the comfort of your own home as films would, as a rule, not be screened on TV for at least 5 years after the release date. This particular book was published in 1993 to coincide with the release of the Clint Eastwood vehicle directed by Wolfgang Petersen. The film is one of Eastwood’s very best. A taut, suspenseful and efficiently made thriller. Eastwood’s significant screen presence and charisma gave depth and likeability to a character carrying years of guilt about not having been able to prevent the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963.

Here, Jeff Maguire’s lean screenplay has been worked into a novel by popular pulp writer Max Allan Collins. The result is a book that is as slick as the movie. Collins’ prose style effectively captures the narrative drive of Petersen’s movie. It is told mainly from the perspective of the two protagonists – Frank Horrigan and wacko Mitch Leary, who is out to extract revenge on the US Government by killing the President. It is difficult to convey John Malkovich’s creepy performance as Leary on the printed page, but for anyone who has seen the movie the imprint of Eastwood and Malkovich will loom large over the crackling dialogue between the two characters as Leary leads Horrigan on a cat-and-mouse chase. There are one or two elements that vary from the final film presented on screen, presumably changes that had been made to Maguire’s screenplay on set, but overall this is a thoroughly entertaining and quick read that accurately captures the excitement of the movie.

Film Review – UNFORGIVEN (1992)

Unforgiven (1992; USA; Technicolor; 131m) ****½  d. Clint Eastwood; w. David Webb Peoples; ph. Jack N. Green; m. Lennie Niehaus.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris, Saul Rubinek, Frances Fisher, Rob Campbell, Anthony James, Shane Meier, Jaimz Woolvett, Anna Levine, David Mucci, Tara Frederick, Liisa Repo-Martell, Beverley Elliott. A retired Old West gunslinger reluctantly takes on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man. Eastwood’s revisionist Western strips away the old mythology surrounding the gunfighters and the lawmen, delivering the vulnerable and violent reality of killing. The film is perfectly paced to capture the nuances in the script and the performances of a wonderful cast, with Hackman, Harris, Freeman and Eastwood all turning in note perfect interpretations. Gentle acoustic score by Niehaus adds melancholy to the mix.  Winner of four Oscars: Best Picture; Actor in a Supporting Role (Hackman); Director and Film Editing. Only the third Western to ever win the Best Picture Oscar. The other two being DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) and CIMARRON (1931). The final screen credit reads, “Dedicated to Sergio and Don”, referring to Eastwood’s mentors, Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. [15]

Film Review – BLOOD WORK (2002)

Image result for blood work blu-rayBlood Work (2002; USA; Technicolor; 110m) ***  d. Clint Eastwood; w. Brian Helgeland; ph. Tom Stern; m. Lennie Niehaus.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston, Wanda De Jesus, Tina Lifford, Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh, Mason Lucero, Gerry Becker, Rick Hoffman, Alix Koromzay, Igor Jijikine, June Kyoto Lu, Dina Eastwood, Beverly Leech. Still recovering from a heart transplant, a retired FBI profiler returns to service when his own blood analysis offers clues to the identity of a serial killer. Interesting premise is occasionally undone by lapses in logic and the routine nature of the production. Eastwood is as charismatic as ever in the lead role, but as director fails to inject sufficient suspense. The strongest moments are the character conflicts. It remains an entertaining enough and serviceable mystery despite its flaws. Based on the novel by Michael Connelly. [15]

Film Review – SULLY (2016)

Image result for sully blu-raySully (2016; USA; Colour; 96m) ∗∗∗½  d. Clint Eastwood; w. Todd Komarnicki; ph. Tom Stern; m. Christian Jacob, Tierney Sutton Band.  Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Sam Huntington, Jerry Ferrara, Jeff Kober, Chris Bauer, Holt McCallany, Carla Shinall, Lynn Marocola, Max Adler, Valerie Mahaffey, Ashley Austin Morris, Michael Rapaport. Based on the true story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who safely crash-landed a plane on the Hudson River in 2009. Efficiently made account of the investigation that followed. Hanks adds depth and dignity to his portrayal of the everyman hero, whilst Eastwood’s no-fuss direction ensures there is no Hollywood-isation of the story. Adapted from the book by Chelsey Sullenberg and Jeffrey Zaslow [12]

Book Review – HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973) by Ernest Tidyman

hpd-paperbackHIGH PLAINS DRIFTER by ERNEST TIDYMAN (1973, Corgi, 150pp) ∗∗∗

Blurb: They whipped the last sheriff to death in the middle of the Main Street. Now a year of breaking rocks had made them hungry for revenge on the whole town. But first they had to deal with the stranger, a man with a lot of lean lightning on his hip – and a gut-urge to use it!

In the 1960s and 70s, before the advent of home video, paperback novelisations were the only way you could revisit a movie without waiting 5 years for a TV premiere or a re-release. They pretty much faded away once movies became readily available, firstly through the rental market and ultimately through retail. Tidyman’s High Plains Drifter is a solid example of how a novelisation could flesh out a screenplay, but could not always recapture the elements that made a movie special.

The novelisation of Tidyman’s screenplay for Clint Eastwood’s Western was published in May 1973 – a month after the release of the film. Tidyman had written the original screenplay during the early summer of 1972 and assigned Phillip Rock (uncredited here) to adapt the screenplay into a novel manuscript, which Tidyman would then edit. The book, therefore stays very close to Tidyman’s original draft. Eastwood saw the opportunity to add some mystical elements – suggesting the stranger was a re-incarnation of the murdered town marshal. Dean Reisner had been hired to add these elements into a final draft screenplay – although Tidyman retained sole credit on screen following a WGA ruling. It is these additional elements and Eastwood’s persona that made the film stand out from other westerns. The novel is, therefore, a much more straight forward tale. Most of the elements of Tidyman’s screenplay were used in the final version of the film, but in the novel there is no real suggestion of a link between the stranger and the marshal. The reader is left to ponder on the stranger’s motives. As a result, the novel – though well written and never less than engaging – does not stand out from the crowd in the same way as the movie.

Note: Phillip Rock wrote the novelisation of Eastwood’s Dirty Harry in 1971.

 

Film Review – PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)

Image result for play misty for me blu-rayPlay Misty for Me (1971; USA; Technicolor; 102m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Clint Eastwood; w. Jo Heims, Dean Riesner; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Dee Barton.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills, John Larch, Jack Ging, Irene Hervey, James McEachin, Don Siegel, Clarice Taylor, Duke Everts, Tim Frawley, Brit Lind, George Fargo, Mervin W. Frates, Otis Kadani. A brief fling between a male disc jockey and an obsessed female fan takes a frightening, and perhaps even deadly turn when another woman enters the picture. Slick, effective psychological thriller with an unnerving performance from Walter. The taut narrative only slows in an unnecessary detour to the Monterey Jazz Festival. Sumptuously photographed by Surtees. Eastwood’s directorial debut. The first scene he shot was his former director Don Siegel’s cameo as a bartender. [15]

Film Review – THE BEGUILED (1971)

Beguiled, The (1971; USA; Technicolor; 109m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Don Siegel; w. John B. Sherry, Grimes Grice; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Lalo Schifrin.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman, Jo Ann Harris, Darleen Carr, Mae Mercer, Pamelyn Ferdin, Melody Thomas, Peggy Drier. A wounded Union soldier who has been taken in at a Southern girls’ school. The girls become curious and then sensuous. But when jealousy sparks, the anger is ultimately focused on the soldier. Haunting tale with Eastwood playing against type. Themes of repression, sodomy and sexual frustration are well-handled by Siegel and Page is excellent as a headmistress with her own secrets. Based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan. [15]

Film Review – JOE KIDD (1972)

Joe Kidd (1972; USA; Technicolor; 88m) ∗∗∗  d. John Sturges; w. Elmore Leonard; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Lalo Schifrin.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, John Saxon, Don Stroud, Stella Garcia, James Wainwright, Paul Koslo, Gregory Walcott, Dick Van Patten, Lynne Marta, Pepe Hern, Joaquin Martinez, John Carter, Ron Soble. An ex-bounty hunter reluctantly helps a wealthy landowner and his henchmen track down a Mexican revolutionary leader. Eastwood and Duvall add class to an otherwise routine Western. Superbly photographed by Surtees who uses the location to maximum effect. Story lacks a satisfactory resolution but has its moments in through a number of well-staged set-pieces. [15]