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Showing posts from October, 2013

What have you got? Half a dozen different scenarios all going in opposite directions.

Winter Kills (1979)
Winter Kills stands out from other JFK assassination-fuelled pictures, not only due its broad satirical bent but also thanks to a beleaguered production history that could inspire its own movie. The latter involved murder, production shutdowns (no less than four), a filing for bankruptcy, a remount several years later and finally an ignominious fate when it was dumped, in butchered form, in a limited release slot. Based on Richard “The Manchurian Candidate” Condon’s novel of the same name, this fictionalised rehearsal of the different strands of JFK conspiracy theorising takes a “names have been changed” tack but the major players are clear to those with even a cursory knowledge of assassination lore.Indeed, the result may be seen as something of a dry run for the melting pot approach Oliver Stone took more than a decade later.First time feature director William Richert delivers a strange, uneven satire that bears the signs of the desperate attempts to salvage someth…

Do chrysanthemums grow on this island?

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Escape from Alcatraz holds particular allure within the prison break genre. Not only is it based on an actual (successful) escape but it relates to the most famous prison of them all. The Rock has featured in other successful films; Burt Lancaster romanticised the Birdman of Alcatraz and Sean Connery was a silver-locked escapee in The Rock. But Escape’s merits lie in its stripped-down, unglamorous approach. It may feature an immaculately coiffured Clint Eastwood at the centre but it’s his star power that enables the story to unfold with slow-but-sure confidence.

This was Eastwood’s fifth time out with Don Siegel, a working relationship that took in a fish-out-of-water cop thriller (Coogan’s Bluff), a light-hearted western (Two Mules for Sister Sara), and a weird psychosexual American Civil War drama (The Beguiled), before presenting an iconic fascist for the ages (Dirty Harry). Common to the quintet is Eastwood as the loner/outsider protagonist. Escape came ei…