Category Archives: Gene Hackman

Parker on the screen #2: The Split (1968)

Several years ago on this site I referred to the 1968 film The Split as a Blaxsploitation style riff on Donald Westlake’s character, Parker. I have seen other reviewers make the same mistake, I suspect mainly on the basis that it was an action film starring a black man, ex-pro-footballer turned actor, Jim Brown, in the role of McClain (as the character of Parker is called). Not only did The Split appear several years before that cycle of films kicked off (1971 with the release of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft), but it displays none of the extravagant sexual and violent action stylings of that canon.

The second film in my series of Parker on the screen, The Split is a workmanlike neo noir based on Donald Westlake’s Parker novel, The Seventh. It is no Point Blank. I don’t even think it is as good as the 1967 French film, Mise a Sac, based on Westlake’s The Score, my first entry in the Parker on the screen series. But neither is it as bad as lot of people think.

The heist in The Seventh – stealing the ticket takings from a stadium football game – is over in the first dozen or pages of the book.… Read more

Rewatching French Connection II

Can we talk for a moment about just how good John Frankenheimer’s 1975 movie French Connection IIis?

It did okay but not spectacular business on release but I feel like it has never received much love from critics and crime film fans alike, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it is a sequel and with few exceptions, like oft citedThe Godfather II (1974), we are always pretty meh about sequels, and rightly so.

Second, is the shadow of the 1971 original, The French Connection, which won a tonne of Oscars, including best picture, best actor for Gene Hackman as Detective Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle, and best director for the then wunderkind, William Friedkin, and is one of the most famous, if not the most famous American crime film of the 1970s.

Third, is the director, John Frankenheimer, who started his career strong with The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and The Train (1964 ), but with a few exceptions – 52 Pick-Up (1986), the nasty little film he did for Canon, and The Island of Dr Moreau (1996), which I know a lot of people hate on but I love – didn’t seem to do a whole lot else of particular note. It is a filmography I have always found hard to engage with and I probably need to make more effort.… Read more

Post coital fondue with Harry & Ellen

On his site, Hard Boiled Wonderland, Jedidiah Ayres is currently doing a series of posts In February on the theme of ‘Felonious Valentines’ – romance in crime cinema. I stopped by with a few words on one of my favourite scenes in 1970s American cinema and (to my knowledge), the only one featuring post coital fondue. The scene, featuring Gene Hackman and Susan Clark, is in, Arthur Penn’s existentially bleak 1975 neo noir, Night Moves. You can my post in full here.

Pass me a fondue fork.… Read more

Moseby Confidential: Arthur Penn’s Night Moves and the Rise of Neo-Noir

To paraphrase Crocket, the cop character in Michael Mann’s 2006 movie, Miami Vice, I am a fiend for late 1960s/early 1970s American crime cinema. And Matthew Asprey Gear’s Moseby Confidential: Arthur Penn’s Nightmoves and the Rise Neo- Noir, reminded me exactly why.

Moseby Confidential is a monograph about the 1975 neo-noir, Night Moves, starring Gene Hackman as Harry Moseby. Moseby is a confused, disillusioned, deeply insecure, ex-professional footballer turned bottom feeding Los Angeles private investigator. As much to take his mind off suspicions his wife (Susan Clark) is having an affair as the need to turn a dollar, Moseby takes the job of finding the 16-year old tearaway daughter (a very young Melanie Griffiths in her first major screen role) of a washed up Hollywood star.

The case brushes up against the world of professional Hollywood stuntmen before taking Moseby to Key West, Florida, where the young girl is living her stepfather and his hardscrabble girlfriend, Paula (a terrific performance by Jennifer Warren, who Asprey Gear interviews for the book).

Like Asprey Gear, I am a big fan of Night Moves, which was reviewed on this site here back in 2013. I love its strange, discursive narrative and existentially bleak worldview, and its refusal to present its story in a nice, neat package. … Read more

Pulp Friday: The Riot

I am rather partial to a good paperback movie tie-in. And I love Pan paperbacks. So this book from 1969, which I had never previously seen before stumbling across it in a second hand bookshop this week, presses all the right buttons.

The Riot, the only novel credit I have been able to find for Frank Elli, was first published in 1966. It is the story of a cynical con who finds himself thrown into the centre of a brutal hostage situation when the prison he is incarcerated in, erupts in a riot. Apparently the novel was based on an actual riot in an Arizona prison in which Elli, a former inmate of the prison, had been involved in. Kirkus Review called it ‘powerful storytelling. It’s a brutal, black vision in which the cynical despair is offset by a cool, shrug shouldered presentation.’ That doesn’t sound too bad.

It was filmed as Riot in 1969 by Buzz Kulik, a director who appears to have spent most of his career doing television, starring Jim Brown in the main role, and Gene hackman. As was often the case with prison films in the 1960s and 1970s, the production utilised real life prison inmate and staff at the Yuma Territorial Prison that it was filmed in.… Read more