Tag Archives: Robert Mitchum

Mud, madness and masculinity: William Friedkin’s Sorcerer

scheiderPerfect films usually only ever appear so in retrospect. A case in point is Sorcerer, William Friedkin’s 1977 reimagining of the Henri-Georges Clouzot 1953 classic, The Wages of Fear.

The gloriously remastered print of Sorcerer, showing as part of the Melbourne International Film Festivals ‘Masters and Restorations’ program, is an incredible tale of failed masculinity, predatory capitalism and madness.

It was a commercial flop upon release, only recouping nine million of its original twenty one million dollar budget, largely due to appearing at almost the exact same time as the first instalment of Star Wars. Friedkin viewed it as the toughest job of his career. Shooting was littered with accidents and problems, including the film’s riveting central scene, where trucks must cross a rickety rope and timber bridge over a raging river in the middle of a fierce tropical storm. The sequence, due to weather and other reasons, occurred over two countries and took three months to shoot.

Three men, on the run from past mistakes, have ended end up in a run down, impoverished town in an unspecified Latin American banana republic (the real location being the Dominican Republic, which at the time was under an actual military dictatorship).

Jackie (Roy Scheider) was part of a heist on a Catholic Church that ended in a car crash in which all the other members of the gang are killed.… Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made

asphalt01I love a good heist film.

I love the genius and intricacy of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for a job or the desperate ex-cons trying for one last score.

But most of all I love them because of the golden rule of all good heist films – for whatever reason, the heist always goes wrong.

What do you need for a good heist?

You need a plan for actual heist itself, the getaway, and moving, storing and fencing whatever it is you’ve stolen. The more complicated the plan, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.

You need a crew of people; one man or woman alone cannot do a heist. This introduces the human element and all the problems that come with it, the greed, suspicions, jealousies and uncertainties.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about what my top ten-heist films would be and the following list, in no particular order, is it.

The robbery itself is almost immaterial to how I rate a good heist film. What I like is the context and atmosphere in which the heist takes place and inevitable problems that arise after it’s been pulled off. And the darker and more broken things get, the better the film is in my book.… Read more

Psycho preacher alert: Heath Lowrance’s The Bastard Hand

Ever since seeing Robert Mitchum as Harry Powell in the 1955 classic, Night of the Hunter, I’ve had a thing for itinerant unbalanced evangelical preachers.

Which is one reason I enjoyed Detroit-based writer Heath Lowrance’s debut novel, The Bastard Hand, so much.

The book is narrated by Charlie, a drifter fresh out of a psychiatric care where he was put after killing a policeman. He’s having a few problems adjusting to post-institutional life, little things, like the fact his hands glow with the power of God in the presence of wrongdoers.

After getting mugged within hours of arriving in Memphis, Charlie befriends a Baptist Reverend called Phineas Childe, agreeing to accompany him to the town of Cuba Landing, where the Reverend will be working.

Although Childe is no match for Mitchum’s Powell in the killing stakes, he is nonetheless a lying, drinking, womanizing, sleazy opportunist who manages to be charming and menacing at the same time.

Lowrance takes the reader on a wild ride through the corruption and deceit that bubbles away beneath the surface of Cuba Landing. Along the way we meet some great characters, including a couple of backwoods moonshiners, a bent mayor and his cop flunky, and a stick up gang of crack heads.

The Bastard Hand is by turns a lurid hard-boiled suspense novel and an elegant piss take of evangelical religion and small town mores.… Read more

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Of the crime films coming out of the United States in the early seventies, it’s hard to think of one that’s tougher and grittier than the 1973 neo-noir, The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

Set in Boston’s criminal milieu, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is a no frills depiction of desperate men doing whatever they have to do to stay one step ahead of each other and the law.

And none of them is more desperate than Eddie ‘Fingers’ Coyle (Robert Mitchum). A 51 year-old ex-con, a gun runner and Christ knows what else in his criminal career, Coyle’s got a wife, three kids and the prospect of a three to five-year jail stretch for being caught driving a truckload of stolen whisky.

We first glimpse Coyle getting his coffee and slice of pie in an all night diner before sitting down to talk business with the young Turk, Jackie Brown (Steven Keats), from who he gets his merchandise.

The punk gives him lip and Coyle has to set him straight with the story about how he got his nickname and an extra set of knuckles on one hand, courtesy of a gun deal gone wrong.

“You can’t trace these guns, I guarantee that,” whines Brown.

“You better, or neither of us will be able to shake hands,” deadpans Coyle.… Read more