Film Review – TWO-MINUTE WARNING (1976)

TWO-MINUTE WARNING (1976, USA) ***
Crime, Mystery, Thriller

dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Filmways Pictures / Universal Pictures; d. Larry Peerce; w. Edward Hume (based on the novel by George LaFountaine); pr. Edward S. Feldman; ph. Gerald Hirschfeld (Technicolor. Super 8 (Cineavision: 2.35, anamorphic), 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.35:1); m. Charles Fox; ed. Walter Hannemann, Eve Newman; ad. Herman A. Blumenthal; set d. John M. Dwyer; cos. Irwin Rose, Vicki Sánchez; m/up. Lon Bentley, Tony Lloyd, Connie Nichols; sd. James R. Alexander, Gordon Ecker, Robert L. Hoyt (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); sfx. Arthur Brewer; vfx. Albert Whitlock; st. Glenn R. Wilder; rel. 12 November 1976 (USA), November 1976 (UK); cert: R/15; r/t. 115m.

cast: Charlton Heston (Capt. Peter Holly), John Cassavetes (Sgt. Button), Martin Balsam (Sam McKeever), Beau Bridges (Mike Ramsay), Marilyn Hassett (Lucy), David Janssen (Steve), Jack Klugman (Sandman), Gena Rowlands (Janet), Walter Pidgeon (The Pickpocket), Brock Peters (Paul), David Groh (Al), Mitchell Ryan (The Priest), Joe Kapp (Charlie Tyler), Pamela Bellwood (Peggy Ramsay), Jon Korkes (Jeffrey), William Bryant (Lt. Calloway), Allan Miller (Mr. Green), Andy Sidaris (TV Director), Ron Sheldon (Assistant TV Director), Stanford Blum (Assistant TV Director).

Peerce directed this story of a mad sniper loose in a football stadium. The Los Angeles Police Department, led by Capt. Peter Holly (Heston), learns that a madman is planning to open fire on football fans in a packed Los Angeles Coliseum. Holly finds himself at tactical odds with SWAT commander Sgt. Button (Cassavetes) as the fans — including gambler Sandman (Klugman), a pickpocket (Pidgeon), car salesman Steve (Janssen) and his girlfriend, Janet (Rowlands) — unknowingly risk their lives while the gunman takes aim. Peerce handles the material skilfully – notably during the chaotic climax as the crowd stampede for the exits.  Heston gives a square-jawed performance as the police captain and Cassavetes is perhaps overly-cynical as the SWAT team leader. The supporting cast of potential sniper victims is strong, although the dialogue they are given to work with is formulaic. The football stadium scenes are well staged – the game footage for the full stadium shots of the L.A. Coliseum were from a Pac-8 college match. Script-wise, there are lapses in logic in the police approach to the situation and it is hard to believe that only one member of the crowd seems to have noticed what is going on. The gunman is given no back story, which to an extent makes the scenario more unsettling and is resonant today in representing a society where the gun laws result in frequent single-handed multi-victim shooting incidents. The back story element was later rectified in the 1979 TV broadcast version of the film, which included  around 40m of new scenes substituting 30m of the original material. Additional cast members for the TV version included: Rossano Brazzi, James Olson, Paul Shenar, William Prince, Joanna Pettet, and Warren Miller. Peerce wisely asked for his name to be removed from the credits of the new version.

AAN: Best Film Editing (Eve Newman, Walter Hannemann)

Film Review – MAGNUM FORCE (1973)

Image result for magnum force 1973MAGNUM FORCE (USA, 1973) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 25 December 1973 (USA), 26 December 1973 (UK); Filming Dates: 24 April–late June 1973; Running Time: 124m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Ted Post; Writer: John Milius, Michael Cimino (based on a story by John Milius and original material by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink); Producer: Robert Daley; Director of Photography: Frank Stanley; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Casting Director: Nessa Hyams (uncredited); Art Director: Jack T. Collis; Set Decorator: John Lamphear; Costumes: Glenn Wright; Make-up: Joe McKinney; Sound: James R. Alexander; Special Effects: Sass Bedig.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Harry Callahan), Hal Holbrook (Lt. Briggs), Mitchell Ryan (McCoy), David Soul (Davis), Tim Matheson (Sweet), Kip Niven (Astrachan), Robert Urich (Grimes), Felton Perry (Early Smith), Maurice Argent (Nat Weinstein), Margaret Avery (Prostitute), Richard Devon (Ricca), Tony Giorgio (Palancio), Jack Kosslyn (Walter), Bob March (Estabrook), Bob McClurg (Cab Driver), John Mitchum (DiGiorgio), Russ Moro (Ricca’s Driver), Clifford A. Pellow (Guzman), Albert Popwell (Pimp), Christine White (Carol McCoy), Adele Yoshioka (Sunny).
      Synopsis: Eastwood’s Inspector Harry Callahan is on the trail of vigilante cops who are not above going beyond the law to kill the city’s undesirables.
      Comment: Sequel to DIRTY HARRY lacks the style and efficiency of the original, suffering from a sluggish pace at times. However, the set pieces are well-handled and Eastwood commands the screen in his signature role with much to enjoy in his verbal jousts with immediate superior Holbrook. Soul also makes an impression in an early career appearance as one of a group of four rookie cops, which also include Urich, Niven and Matheson. The story would have benefited from tighter editing – alterations and additions had been made to Milius’ original script adding some filler and unnecessary scenes. Schifrin’s memorable propulsive score riffs on his similar work on the first film.
      Notes: Suzanne Somers makes an uncredited appearance as one of the victims in the pool scene early in the film. Film debut of Urich. Second of five films in the series and followed by THE ENFORCER (1976), SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) and THE DEAD POOL (1988).

Film Review – HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973)

Image result for high plains drifter 1973HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (USA, 1973) ***½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); Production Company: The Malpaso Company; Release Date: 6 April 1973 (USA), 31 August 1973 (UK); Filming Dates: July-August 1972; Running Time: 105m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Ernest Tidyman; Executive Producer: Jennings Lang; Producer: Robert Daley; Director of Photography: Bruce Surtees; Music Composer: Dee Barton; Film Editor: Ferris Webster; Casting Director: William Batliner, Robert J. LaSanka (both uncredited); Art Director: Henry Bumstead; Set Decorator: George Milo; Costumes: James Gilmore, Joanne Haas, Glenn Wright (all uncredited); Make-up: Joe McKinney, Gary Morris (both uncredited); Sound: James R. Alexander.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (The Stranger), Verna Bloom (Sarah Belding), Marianna Hill (Callie Travers), Mitchell Ryan (Dave Drake), Jack Ging (Morgan Allen), Stefan Gierasch (Mayor Jason Hobart), Ted Hartley (Lewis Belding), Billy Curtis (Mordecai), Geoffrey Lewis (Stacey Bridges), Scott Walker (Bill Borders), Walter Barnes (Sheriff Sam Shaw), Paul Brinegar (Lutie Naylor), Richard Bull (Asa Goodwin), Robert Donner (Preacher), John Hillerman (Bootmaker), Anthony James (Cole Carlin), William O’Connell (Barber), John Quade (Jake Ross), Jane Aull (Townswoman), Dan Vadis (Dan Carlin), Reid Cruickshanks (Gunsmith), Jim Gosa (Tommy Morris), Jack Kosslyn (Saddlemaker), Russ McCubbin (Fred Short), Belle Mitchell (Mrs. Lake), John Mitchum (Warden), Carl Pitti (Teamster), Chuck Waters (Stableman), Buddy Van Horn (Marshall Jim Duncan).
      Synopsis: A gunfighting stranger comes to the small settlement of Lago and is hired to bring the townsfolk together in an attempt to hold off three outlaws who are on their way.
      Comment: Eastwood’s second directorial effort is an interesting supernatural Western that trades on the persona he built with Sergio Leone and is filmed with the efficiency he learned from Don Siegel. The black humour was a late addition as Eastwood looked to move the story away from writer Tidyman’s initial revenge theme to something more mysterious. Eastwood assembled a good cast and technical crew. The Mono Lake location presents a remote community and adds to the mystery as does the eerie score by Dee Barton. Eastwood would rework the theme in 1985s PALE RIDER.
      Notes: Universal Pictures wanted the film to be shot on the studio lot. Instead, Eastwood had a whole town built in the desert near Mono Lake in the California Sierras. Many of the buildings were complete, so that interiors could be shot on location. One of the headstones in the graveyard bears the name Sergio Leone as a tribute. Other headstones bear the names of Don Siegel and Brian G. Hutton. Patrick McGilligan’s 2002 Eastwood biography quotes the star as saying, “I buried my directors.”