Scroll up a little bit and you can read about POINT BLANK, Lee Marvin’s great Richard Stark adaptation. Directed by John Boorman, an obvious influence on THE LIMEY, one of the classics. Well here’s another one in the same tough guy vein. But it’s less arty, less thoughtful, and has a weird ass meat theme to it.
The movie starts with a slaughterhouse montage showing cows going from cows to sausages. Like the e-coli version of the opening credits to WILLY WONKA. Along the way a dead dude gets thrown in there, chopped up, ground and turned into links, then a big sweaty dude says, “Special order,” packs ’em up and mails ’em to the guy’s boss.
That was the last guy that got sent into this place, so now it’s Lee Marvin’s turn. He takes a couple of boys and goes to threaten his old friend Gene Hackman, the head of Mary Ann’s Meats. That’s right, Gene Hackman plays a character named Mary Ann. He used to be part of the same Chicago crime scene as Lee Marvin, but he got sick of the competition and decided to start his own empire out in the booneys. This is where the movie starts to get weird, when you see it has a real fanciful idea of farmland criminal decadence. We first meet Mary Ann in a barn, laughing and eating a huge pile of ground meat, while his rich clients browse the hay-filled stalls where doped up naked girls lay around looking like corpses.
So Lee Marvin comes in, threatens Mary Ann, and leaves with one of the naked girls, future academy award winner/Carrie White Sissy Spacek. Turns out she grew up in an orphanage, actually raised for this fate as a white slave. Lee gets her a dress (but no bra) and brings her to a fancy restaraunt, where everybody stares at her visible nipples. She does some of the ol’ trademark Sissy Spacek wild girl routine, staring at everything with giant eyes like she was just born a full grown woman and is seeing earth for the first time. So of course it turns out that Lee is a tough guy criminal with a heart of gold. He never romances Sissy, but he takes good care of her and tries to help her save the other girls.
There are alot of weird moments in this movie, like when a guy tries to stab Lee with a sausage. But my favorite is sort of a NORTH BY NORTHWEST deal where Lee and Sissy are running through a wheat field and some young sweaty cowboy dude tries to run them down in some kind of wheat plow/hay bailer deal (I never worked on a wheat farm, sorry). There’s no way they’re gonna outrun the thing, but luckily Lee’s loyal chauffeur (the Alfred to his Batman) drives across the field right into the plow and shoots the driver.
So now the threat is over, the action scene has ended. And our heroes stand and watch as the plow chews the whole car into tiny pieces. It’s great.
The movie is well directed by Michael Ritchie, the dude that directed THE BAD NEWS BEARS. There’s lots of gritty atmosphere and quiet moments that erupt into some nice themes by Lalo Schifrin. But of course the show is all Lee Marvin’s. Not even Gene Hackman can take a movie from Lee Marvin.
Unfortunately, like POINT BLANK, this one’s not on DVD and out of print on VHS. And the transfer’s pretty fucked, always either obviously cropped or weirdly stretched out to fit the shape of a TV. Still, it’s well worth tracking down and I’m sure some day the nitwits will figure out to put it on a more convenient and round type of format.
UPDATE: the nitwits did release it on dvd, check it out
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.