CINEMATIC REVELATIONS: August 2020

Monday, August 24, 2020

1960s AND 1970s FILMS WHICH DESERVE A CONTEMPORARY DVD RELEASE

I have been perusing through a list of movies I have seen over the years, and finds myself referring back to LAST SUMMER and THE MARRIAGE OF A YOUNG STOCKBROKER time and again. The films are two of the most striking examples of late 1960s, and early 1970s filmmaking. Made with style by all involved, and also, unflinching honesty, I believe these movies deserve a DVD release, with a fresh copies for viewers to enjoy, as they are both currently unavailable.

*LAST SUMMER (1969) Directed by Frank Perry, IMDb entry


*THE MARRIAGE OF A YOUNG STOCKBROKER (1971) Directed by Lawrence Turman, IMDb entry

Sunday, August 16, 2020

C.C. & COMPANY (1970)


Title: C.C & COMPANY

Year of Release: 1970

Director: Seymour Robbie

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy

Synopsis: C.C. Ryder is a motorcycle mechanic who becomes a member of a biker gang, but falls for a fashion journalist, this complicating his relationship with them, especially, the gang's leader.

Within a film history context: Films about motorcycle biker gangs were at their height during the 1960s, but there were several examples of these on screen in the 1950s. The first major film about bikers, THE WILD ONE (1953), directed by Laslo Benedek, starred Marlon Brando in one of his signature roles. In this movie, two motorcycle gangs go head to head, and when one of their leaders is placed in jail, taking out their anger on a small town. Interesting to note that this was made by a major Hollywood studio, and seminal at the time for its view of events. Later films were made by smaller studios, with lesser known actors and directors. In Edward L. Cahn's MOTORCYCLE GANG (1956) a biker rails against being part of a more legitimate motorcycle club, his actions causing trouble with the other members. In a similar exploitation vein, DRAGSTRIP RIOT (1958), directed by David Bradley, a young man and his girlfriend are thought to have killed a biker from a gang, the gang's other members seeking revenge, but the crime was committed by someone else. The mid to late 1960s brought forth a plethora of biker gang themed movies for film audiences.

Director Russ Meyer heralded a more violent brand of biker movie with MOTORPSYCHO! (1965). With this film, revenge was the order of the day, as a man whose wife was raped by bikers, and a woman whose husband was killed by the same bikers, unite to seek retaliation on this gang. In 1966, Roger Corman's THE WILD ANGELS was released. Starring Peter Fonda who would later appear as a biker in EASY RIDER (1969), it was about a San Pedro motorcycle gang causing trouble in California. Another notable entry was THE BORN LOSERS (1967). Both directed and starring Tom Laughlin, it followed a young man who takes on a motorcycle gang at their own game. It spawned four sequels over time, and was a major box-office success. Somewhat different in nature from previous films was Herschell Gordon Lewis' SHE-DEVILS ON WHEELS (1968). In this instance, a female motorcycle gang causes problems in a small town, par for the course for many films in the genre, and also, take on a male biker gang. 

With 1969 the most famous example of a biker movie exploded on screens, capturing huge audiences in its wake. EASY RIDER (1969), directed by Dennis Hopper, was about two bikers roaming the countryside on their motorcycles, but never finding real happiness along the way. While not part of a gang as such, it is of interest as the bikers were not out to cause problems, but found trouble from various individuals. This was in complete contrast to the previous entries where the bikers incited mayhem. The most poetic of all the biker movies, it is fondly remembered for its fashionable quirks and downbeat ending. C.C. & COMPANY both contained elements of the biker films, but also, had its own distinguishing characteristics.

While C.C. & COMPANY featured a motorcycle gang, in this film the gang consisted of both men and women, unlike the other films which had either all-male, or all-female members. A man was the leader, as was the case with many of the previous films, who lorded it over the other members. In comparison to the other movies, it had a much lighter tone, preferring to keep away from the heady violence which marked films such as THE WILD ANGELS. While there were some scuffles and antics, these were of a decidedly softer, more benign nature. C.C. & COMPANY was concerned with the competition between members through racing and the like rather than thoroughgoing violence. The spectacle of motorcycle riding was the main ambition of this movie, teamed with a rock soundtrack, as with EASY RIDER. The film, though, had nowhere near the same depth or tragic pull as EASY RIDER, preferring to treat narrative events on a superficial level. This has both negative, and positive consequences for C.C. & COMPANY.

One never finds out how, and why these people ended up in a motorcycle gang, as this is never revealed in the movie. Everyone has a story to tell, but, this has been neglected in the film. The assortment of wacky characters could have been teased out more, which would have added to viewing pleasure. Ann-Margret's character is the only one who seems to have a back story, but even this is not fleshed out. Other questions are also posed when watching the film. How does the gang make money? It may be through some illegal means, but this information is kept from the audience. It does not appear to be drug-based, as there are no references to, or scenes of substance abuse. What this points to is that C.C. & COMPANY has no aspirations to be deep in any way. It looks good as a movie, has great music and locations, and, has a ribald spirit that is contagious. It is a feel-good experience that seeks to take viewers on a rollicking journey of harmless entertainment that not does not require much thought, just an open mind.

Overview: Seymour Robbie was a director who made only two feature films in his career, but had a multitude of television credits to his name from the early 1950s, until 1990. His second film, MARCO (1973) was a family movie about Marco Polo, with action and musical trimmings, starring Dezi Arnaz Jr. in the lead role. Mr Robbie's debut movie, C.C. & COMPANY, was possibly the most entertaining, irreverent of his two movies. It follows the exploits of C.C. Ryder, the eponymous biker and mechanic who joins a biker group, but runs foul of them when he falls in love with a fashion journalist, taking his slice of the money with him. While this film is not high art, it obviously has not been intended to be such. It is pure escapism and entertainment, with plenty of motorcycle action scenes and comic interludes. These are the best parts of the movie, and what make it a watchable, fun experience. There are, though, certain features of the movie that are notable for dissection.

While the male characters are well-drawn and have a definite purpose in the narrative, the same cannot be said about the female characters. As the film is in the biker genre, and some clichés are to be expected, or come with the territory, the female characters in C.C. & COMPANY are not in the same league as the male protagonists. They largely exist as either 'eye candy' for the male characters (and spectators), as biker molls or floozies, to use the term, and are only present to be saved by the male characters. They have, apart from Ann-Margret's role, no real purpose, and are actually more vulgar in their actions and language from the men, which is a surprising choice on the part of the writers and director. Maybe this was to show that women were sexually freer in both their choices and language than beforehand, but it does not leave a sweet taste in the mouth. Hardly a positive view of emancipated femininity. Other lapses exist in the film which are not satisfying for the movie as a whole.

There is no clear tying up of loose ends at its conclusion which is a little frustrating. While it is obvious that the movie at the end is seen from C.C.'s perspective, riding off on his motorcycle, the fate of Moon is not explored in any way. This may have been intentional, but the lack of investment in this character, who dominates the screen whenever he is on, is a let down. Facile answers and solutions to problems are another feature of C.C. & COMPANY which could have been overturned, bringing more authenticity to the film. Something that was not investigated in any manner was exactly why was Moon the way he was, and how did he manage to round up the number of followers he did. William Smith is a charismatic performer and this is obvious in one way, but a little more depth in areas such as these would have been good. Apart from this, the movie did not capitalize on having William Smith and Ann-Margret onscreen together in more scenes. Having Moon, for instance, fall for Ann would have complicated matters, giving the C.C./Ann pairing more complexity. Alas, this was not to bear. This lack of attention to some details, though, points to the intention of the movie, which cannot be faulted. Whatever its deficiencies, C.C. & COMPANY is a movie that exists to entertain with its thrills and spills, in a mindless, carefree manner, and successfully achieves this aim.

Acting: The acting in C.C. & COMPANY largely takes a back seat to the stunts and motorcycle action presented on screen, but, nevertheless, is worthy of discussion. As the main character, C.C. Ryder, Joe Namath does an admirable job in the film. While not a trained actor but an athlete, he has an easy charm and affable nature which works well in the movie. He is physically correct for the role, and does not have an aura of self-love or egotism which would have damaged his performance. His pairing with Ann-Margret is quite good, and they are an agreeable chemistry. Ann-Margret's performance in this film, though, is not as great as her other appearances. She is an actress who has provided excellent acting in her other films, with CARNAL KNOWLEDGE being a wonderful victory for her, but in C.C. & COMPANY, unfortunately, the role is inadequate for her talents. It does not take advantage of her spunkiness and vulnerability, and renders her part as colourless. In comparison, William Smith does a brilliant job as Moon, self-appointed leader of the biker gang. Just seeing Mr Smith mouthing his dialogue, strutting his stuff with sleeveless shirts and tidy beard, is a delight. It is the most entertaining, humorous, and excellent portrayal in a biker film ever.

Soundtrack: C.C. & COMPANY has a varied and eclectic soundtrack. The vast majority of tunes are rock music in nature, especially during the plentiful motorcycle sequences. These do not detract from what is taking place onscreen, only enhancing the action. Exceptions to this include the more romantic music during C.C and Ann's love scene, and also, softer pop songs in the scenes where they are together by the pool. There is also a nightclub scene featuring the song 'I Can't Turn You Loose' performed by Wayne Cochran, which is the sole example of diegetic music in the film.

Mise-en-scene: The locations in C.C. & COMPANY give the film a thrust that provides excitement and veracity for the viewer. Rugged landscapes only emphasize the rough and tumble nature of motorcycle racing, the camera intimately tracing every step, as if the spectator was there. The opening credits with its jivy music and multi-screen images perfectly embodies the freedom and spirit that the film wanted to express to audiences.

Award-worthy performances in my opinion: Joe Namath, William Smith.

Suitability for young viewers: No. Infrequent coarse language, female nudity, adult themes, low-level violence.

Overall GradeC

LinkIMDB Page

Trailer


Monday, August 10, 2020

CALIFORNIA DREAMING (1979)


Title: CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Year of Release: 1979

Director: John D. Hancock

Genre: Drama, Romance

Synopsis: A young man comes to California from Chicago to live the surfing life, but finds that things are not greener on the other side of the fence for his friends and surfing acquaintances.

Within a film history context: Films about characters whose lives are marked by their experiences on the beach have been shown in cinema on many occasions. The first movies in this vein began onscreen in the late 1950s, a trend that has continued until the present day. Paul Wendkos' GIDGET (1959), was the first film released by a major Hollywood studio with a beach and surfing background. Its popularity led to two sequels, several television movies, and television series in the years after. Henry Levin's WHERE THE BOYS ARE (1960) unlike GIDGET, which had musical accompaniment, was MGM's entry in the genre. Starring a youthful cast including singer-actress Connie Francis, George Hamilton and Paula Prentiss, it was a popular film that appealed to young audiences at the time. One of the major films with a beach theme, though, was to arrive on screen in the early 1960s.

GIDGET and its counterparts were followed by the Beach Party movie cycle, filmed by American International Pictures. Beginning with BEACH PARTY in 1963, directed by William Asher, it led to a spate of sequels, frequently starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Some of the sequels included MUSCLE BEACH PARTY (1964), BEACH BLANKET BINGO (1965) and HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI (1965), with increasingly darker variations such as DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE (1965). They were films made on tight budgets which, in most cases, returned handsome profits to the studio. The movies were also notable for the big name stars they attracted, with actors such as Eve Arden, Dorothy Lamour, Peter Lorre, and Mickey Rooney featured. This filmic fad, though, eventually petered out in prominence, largely replaced by the biker genre, which would take hold in the mid-1960s, finding its zenith in the late 1960s with EASY RIDER (1969). One of the 1960s' best films of the beach, exploring the lives of the people who frequent it, is Frank Perry's LAST SUMMER (1969). An intensive study of four characters and their life on the beach at Fire Island, it was one of the finest dramatic motion pictures with a plage setting.

The rise of surf culture in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly in the U.S., Hawaii and Australia, also played a great role in the attractiveness of these movies to audiences. Thoroughly influential in this movement was Bruce Conner's documentary THE ENDLESS SUMMER (1966). A film featuring major surfing stars of the day including Michael Hynson and Robert August, and shot in locations such as the Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia, it was a box-office success, and spawned a sequel in 1986, THE ENDLESS SUMMER II. The director himself was a surfer, and this showed itself in the film's authenticity and verisimilitude. As with the beach party movies, THE ENDLESS SUMMER had a disarming humor and joie de vivre that resonated with viewers at the time, and is still fondly remembered many years after its release.

With the 1970s came increasingly complex narratives which were completely different in nature from the more innocent, benign teen based films of the 1960s. LIFEGUARD (1976), directed by Daniel Petrie, was the character study of a lifeguard in his 30s, contrasting his life with that of his younger colleague. A film that showcased lead actor Sam Elliott in a swimsuit for the majority of its running time, it was more than a celebration of male beefcake. It showed the personal side of its protagonist in detail, providing a sympathetic portrait for viewers to consider. John Milius' BIG WEDNESDAY (1978) was another film that explored the private lives of its characters. In the case of this movie, it charted the exploits in detail of three characters over the course of approximately a decade. There were less serious films such as MALIBU BEACH (1978), directed by Robert J. Rosenthal, which followed the hijinks of teenagers on a Californian beach. Different in handling from other beach theme films was Al Adamson's SUNSET COVE (1978). In this instance, an environmental theme was at play, with the teenage visitors of a beach protesting the construction of an apartment complex on their beach. In contrast, CALIFORNIA DREAMING contained elements of the less-serious movies such as the Beach Party series, but had more in common with the dramatic efforts such as BIG WEDNESDAY and LIFEGUARD.

The film contained the ingredients which were present in all of the films mentioned above - beautiful settings and attractive players, giving audiences, upon initial inspection, a pleasing visual experience. In this film, though, these were employed in a more naturalistic manner by the director, drawing the viewers in with these at first sight, but, nourishing the spectator with a credible story to back these up. While CALIFORNIA DREAMING had several comedic interludes, somewhat in common with non-beach movie AMERICAN GRAFFITI, as with this film, these bits were not included just for the sake of having comedy, but fit into the movie in a comfortable manner. CALIFORNIA DREAMING was also more of a multi-character narrative than the other beach films, offering vigorous coverage of several groups of characters that the viewer learns to care about over the course of ninety minutes.

With CALIFORNIA DREAMING, the film is akin to the beach party movies to a small degree, but, instead, delves further, and more intimately, into the lives of its protagonists than those films ever did. The sexual content, while not of itself extremely explicit in nature, goes beyond what the other films could present, not only because of the censorship of the 1960s but also, as CALIFORNIA DREAMING has a more mature outlook on all matters pertaining to its characters. The characters in this film also deal with love issues and the like, but in addition, other themes such as family, personal responsibility, marriage, and guilt. Another aspect sets the film apart from others of its type. While largely set on the beach and its environs, it does not feature endless sequences there, or of the characters surfing to a great extent. It is balanced between both its indoor, and outdoor scenes, without becoming a travelogue, or a surfing documentary. One of the most thoughtful films on the beach theme presented to viewers, CALIFORNIA DREAMING is a movie that deserves recognition, and discussion, for the sensitive treatment of its characters and milieu.

Overview: John D. Hancock is the director of eight feature films in his nearly fifty year career. After his debut in 1971, he has released his latest movie in 2020, with many television credits between. Mr Hancock's inaugural film, LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH (1971) was a horror movie, and he followed this with one of his most famous films, BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY (1973). The story of two baseball players and the relationship which blossoms between them, it was an excellent vehicle for stars Robert De Niro and Michael Moriarty. Next came BABY BLUE MARINE (1976) with Jan-Michael Vincent. Following the adventures, and mis-adventures of a young marine, set during World War II, it offered its star ample opportunities to display his winning charm for viewers. After an eight year hiatus from cinema, Mr Hancock released WEEDS (1987). With Nick Nolte in the lead role, it was about a jailed lifer who writes a play, this piquing the curiosity of a reporter. Mr Hancock's most recent movie, THE GIRLS OF SUMMER (2020) is a character study of a young woman who yearns of becoming a musician, but events throw her many curve balls along the way. CALIFORNIA DREAMING, as with all of his movies, is character-driven in nature, that also treads on dramatic, but realistic situations, that could easily have occurred in life.

This focus on realistic situations and scenarios is something that permeates all of Mr Hancock's work, and is sharply in evidence in CALIFORNIA DREAMING. Mr Hancock offers portraits of his characters who, at the outset, would appear to be two-dimensional or lacking depth. The talk of surfing, girls and tans is shallow, making the characters seem partial to judging others on a superficial level. As the film progresses, and the viewer becomes accustomed to the characters ands their quirks, the director strips away the veneer, showing these people with all their flaws, making them very real, and in many instances, moving. There is more to them than suntans and swimwear, and laying on the beach all day. 

The tight concentration on character groups in the movie serves it well, making the film flow soundly, without the necessity of unnecessary scenes that otherwise might bog down the action. While one of the character groups, without doubt, would have benefitted from deeper examination, instead of being present just for comic relief, in retrospect, this decision works. It serves to balance the film, especially in the final acts, where it is at its most heart-rending. What is not as attractive to witness was the sexual scene between T.T. and Corky in the movie. It is tasteless in nature and takes too long onscreen to unravel, hampering the film's reflective nature to an extent. It added nothing except possibly embarrassing the actors in question, but it is the one segment of the film that could have been shortened without any issue. This, though, is a minor quibble when considering the film's impact overall. CALIFORNIA DREAMING is one of John Hancock's smoothest, most accessible films, which packs an emotional wallop that one will remember long after seeing it.

Acting: The acting in CALIFORNIA DREAMING is one of its best qualities, taking the film from what could have been an ordinary scenario, and making it into something special. As Duke, the owner of the beach café, this is one of Seymour Cassel's best, most shaded performances. As the gentle dreamer Duke, Mr Cassel provides the film's most moving scenes. Everything about it, from Mr Cassel's quiet voice to his careful movements, adds up to a wonderful interpretation of the wistful Duke. He is matched by Dennis Christopher as T.T., the young man Duke takes under his wing, only to have events in their friendship spin out of control. A lively actor adept as playing both the friendly but also, utterly reprehensible sides of his character well, Mr Christopher excels as the believable T.T.  As Fay, Dorothy Tristan works well as a team with Mr Cassel's Duke, her subtle mannerisms and quiet voice used to great effect. Their estrangement, and subsequent reconciliation are handled with self-assurance by the two actors. There are three other performers in CALIFORNIA DREAMING who warrant recognition for their contribution to the film.

John Calvin, as macho, conceited surfer Rick, offers a complex interpretation of a character who normally would have seemed one-note. Mr Calvin is a capable actor who seems to be comfortable in any environment, be it on the beach wearing a swimsuit as he is here, or in a three-piece suit in FOOLIN' AROUND (1980). He has a certain teasing nature in this film that is both humorous, but also, contemptible when necessary. As his girlfriend Stephanie, Tanya Roberts is just right in CALIFORNIA DREAMING. An actress who was excellent in Charlie's Angels as Julie Rogers, in this film she displays acting attributes that, unfortunately, were largely underutilized in the other films in which she starred. Here Miss Roberts plays the patient, understanding young woman seeking to make a life with a man who just sees her as a pretty diversion. It is interesting to note Miss Roberts' use of her eyes in the film to show her unsureness, and silence when faced with certain truths. While the scenes could have been played with a more overt flashiness, Miss Roberts wisely eschews this, underplaying her role. She uses her facial expressions, and body language, to convey her feelings to the audience. The final performance of note in the movie was that of Johnny Fain as Tenner, surfer friend of Rick, in what was his last screen appearance. A real-life champion surfer who acted in several movies over the years, here he was employed in an effective but too-brief capacity on screen. His reaction to Rick's words in the film ring true, and his contribution rounds out the great acting in CALIFORNIA DREAMING.

Soundtrack: CALIFORNIA DREAMING is peppered with melodic pop tunes throughout its running time which enhance what is taking place onscreen. Always appropriate and never overpowering, the use of music only makes the film a more pleasurable viewing event.

Mise-en-scene: The film has a naturalistic approach to its locations and sets, and this works to the advantage of CALIFORNIA DREAMING. The vast majority of the movie is filmed on the beach, giving it a feeling of veracity. A studio could in no manner have duplicated the authenticity that a actual location provides, and the beach and water provide an excellent backdrop to the scenes. The film is also measured in both its indoor, and outdoor locations, providing a good balance between both of these. A number of examples stand out in the movie of this. Duke's bar is suitably casual without being over the top or 'beachy', Duke and Corky's home feels like a real beach house, and Stephanie's family home is comfortable and lush while still retaining a seaside vibe.

Award-worthy performances in my opinion: Seymour Cassel, Dorothy Tristan, Dennis Christopher, Tanya Roberts, John Calvin, Johnny Fain.

Suitability for young viewers: No. Infrequent coarse language, female nudity, male nudity, adult themes, low-level violence.

Overall Grade: B

LinkIMDB Page

Trailer


Sunday, August 2, 2020

HIT! (1973)


Title: HIT!

Year of Release: 1973

Director: Sidney J. Furie

Genre: Crime, Drama

Synopsis: Upon the death of his daughter of a drug overdose, a federal agent plans to take down drug traffickers in Marseilles with assistance from people whose lives were affected by narcotics.

Within a film history context: Motion pictures which have the theme of drug traffickers have been presented in cinema for many years, and in various forms. One of the first was Fred Niblo's YOUNG DONOVAN'S KID (1931). Starring Richard Dix, it followed a man who attempts to stop a drug dealer from foisting his trade on young children. Jack Holt was the star of 1932's BEHIND THE MASK, directed by John Francis Dillon. In this movie, Mr Holt makes an escape from prison with the intention of breaking a heroin drug ring. Matters were different in Herbert Brenon's LIVING DANGEROUSLY (1936). In this movie, the drug trafficker was a doctor involved in selling illicit drugs to addicts, and is discovered by his partner, thus ending this union. Double cross and treachery ensued between the two men before the good doctor is found innocent, and equilibrium reestablished. 

Into the 1950s, FINGER MAN (1955), directed by Harold D. Schuster, featured another spin on the theme. The psychological makeup of the characters in this film was more ambiguous than other tales, with a former criminal wanting to take down a crime kingpin responsible for making his sister an addict. More exploitative in content and intent, Joseph W. Mawra's OLGA'S GIRLS (1964) again threw another twist in the drug trafficker theme. In this instance, a woman is the drug dealer who keeps young women on a string with drugs, but her sadistic tendencies inspire their wrath, and she attempts to find out who is trying to take her down. The 1970s brought further explorations of the consequences of drug trafficking on those affected by their actions.

Don Chain's GINGER (1971) was an exploitation film about a young woman going undercover to do away with an organized crime/drug ring. It is mainly of interest as, with OLGA'S GIRLS, the protagonist was female, an undercover agent played by Cheri Caffaro, and also featured gay pornography model Casey Donovan in this R-rated effort. Much more well known, and one of the most commercially successful pictures on drug trafficking was THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971), directed by William Friedkin. A determined New York City police officer's pursuit of a French drug trafficker, based upon a real-life case, was one of the most exciting, well-acted films about the theme. 1973 marked the release of two more films dealing with drug dealers and traffickers. Jack Hill's COFFY, again with a female lead character, starred Pam Grier as a young woman seeking revenge against the drug dealers responsible for her sister's passing. GORDON'S WAR, directed by Ossie Davis, had a band of Vietnam veterans waging war against drug dealers and other criminals in New York City. HIT!, while carving its own path, had both similarities to past films in the genre, but diverged from them in other ways.

It shared some affinities with YOUNG DONOVAN'S KID and BEHIND THE MASK in that a male character assigned himself with the mission of stopping a drug ring. Where HIT! diverted was that the lead protagonist, Nick Allen, did not work on his own. While the other films were mostly about a single character taking on the drug trade, HIT! had Nick, a federal agent, enlist the assistance of several people whose lives were affected by drugs, such as himself, whose daughter died of a drug overdose. This made the film slightly more akin to movies such as THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) in that a band of people became a team to help overthrow an oppressor.  While this particular film did not deal with drugs, the grouping of different characters had a like structure to HIT! The difference between the two movies, though, is that in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN the characters were all men, and gunfighters, while in HIT! the majority of characters were amateur assassins, with two female characters in the team. This gave HIT! a point of differentiation, and also, some more poignant moments of reflection than the former film.

On the other hand, HIT! harked back to THE FRENCH CONNECTION, in that a man employed by the government took it upon himself to take on drug traffickers on their own game. Both films had charismatic lead characters who the audience could relate to, and understand the rationale for their actions. Neither Nick Allen, nor Popeye Doyle, were ex-criminals or morally cloudy, but both heroes in their distinctive way. The conclusion of HIT!, though, tied up loose ends successfully in the first instance, unlike THE FRENCH CONNECTION, where a sequel appeared in 1975. As HIT! is seen by many quarters as an example of Blaxploitation, it also shares some semblance to COFFY, in that the protagonist has lost a relative to drugs. HIT!, though, also has elements of the revenge film within its structure which merit discussion.

Where Michael Winner's DEATH WISH (1974) does not deal explicitly with drugs, but has a lead dispatching character after character in New York City, its focus in who is marked for death is not as studied as HIT! Nick Allen carefully plans his hits on drug traffickers with precision and care, ensuring that his team are fully on board. Unlike Paul Kersey in DEATH WISH, where he marks unknown, random criminals for death, and never those who killed his wife, and raped his daughter, Nick Allen knows from the beginning who he wants to do away with, and goes from there in exacting his revenge. Nick Allen is as single-minded as the female lead of the later I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978), directed by Meir Zarchi, who avenges those who have wronged her in an equally (but more explicit filmically, alas less stylish) fashion. In summing up, it can be said that HIT! is a film which adds some original touches to the crime genre which make it an interesting movie to watch.

Overview: Sidney J. Furie is a prolific filmmaker who over the course of his sixty-three year career has directed forty-five feature films, with another currently in post-production. Mr Furie is a generalist who has made movies in a number of genres, from crime, action, adventure, comedy to romance. His first film, A DANGEROUS AGE (1957) was a romance which charted the obstacles two young people faced in becoming a couple. Into the 1960s, he made THE BOYS (1962). A drama set in 1960s London, it followed the exploits of four teenagers involved in crime, a theme which Mr Furie explored on various occasions in his career. His next notable film was THE LEATHER BOYS (1964). This was the story of a young woman who marries a biker, this explaining the leather of the title, and how his relationship with his friend impacts on the marriage. Starring a largely British cast, it was another step forward for Mr Furie in making daring movies. 1965 brought THE IPCRESS FILE to audiences. A thriller of espionage and double-cross, again with a British cast including Michael Caine and Gordon Jackson, it is noteworthy as a predecessor for the theme Mr Furie would later investigate in HIT! As a change of pace, Mr Furie then tackled the action-romance genre in THE APPALOOSA (1966). Starring Marlon Brando, it focused upon a man's quest to take back his horse which has been appropriated by a Mexican man. The 1970s was a time of growth for Mr Furie, when he would make films about copious themes.

With the inception of the 1970s, Mr Furie released THE LAWYER (1970). It followed a lawyer who becomes involved in a murder case, and was a change of pace for the director. The same year he made the action film, LITTLE FAUSS AND BIG HALSY (1970) starring Robert Redford as a biker. Mr Furie then filmed the biography of singer Billie Holliday, LADY SINGS THE BLUES (1972). With Diana Ross as Miss Holliday, it was one of his most famous, well-remembered movies, with memorable musical trimmings. The remainder of the 1970s featured various types of movies in mr Furie's oeuvre. SHEILA LEVINE IS DEAD AND LIVING IN NEW YORK (1975) gave Mr Furie the opportunity to display his aptitude for comedy. In this movie, a young woman who moves to New York City and finds love. Mr Furie again tackled a biographical film, GABLE AND LOMBARD (1976). The story of Clark Gable and his ill-fated wife Carole Lombard, it was a movie of a more romantic nature than usual, but was critically derided upon release. Sidney Furie looked at Vietnam with THE BOYS IN COMPANY C (1977). A film with much profanity, it provided its cast with a realistic story about a boot camp that turns into a nightmare once the soldiers arrive in Vietnam. 

In the 1980s Mr Furie's movies were not as prominent as his 1970s pictures. After uncredited direction on two movies, he made THE ENTITY (1982). A horror film about a woman who is menaced by a demon she cannot see but of which she can definitely feel the presence, it was the first time he had made a horror genre entry. With PURPLE HEARTS (1984), Mr Furie revisited Vietnam, this time charting the love story of a doctor and a nurse. The remainder of the decade was devoted to two instalments of the IRON EAGLE franchise in 1986 and 1988 respectively, and, in 1987, a film in the Superman franchise, SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE. HIT!, as with Mr Furie's other films, has an intricate structure that organizes the movie. In this particular instance, though, this has both its positive, and negative aspects.

While HIT! takes its time in establishing certain parts of the story for viewers, such as giving viewers an insight into the public images of drug traffickers, who work in places such as fashion houses, this can be frustrating at times to watch. In the first half, the film is a mixed bag of elements. It begins in a very nonchalant manner, showing how a young woman dies from a drug overdose, and her father's reaction to this. Even though one can feel Nick Allen's loss as Billy Dee Williams plays his part with great subtlety, the spectator is never given the chance to really understand the father-daughter relationship. There are no scenes of them together, or flashbacks, to move the viewer further with Nick Allen's plight. Events just occur in a cut and dry manner which is largely symptomatic of the film as a whole. Many times it lacks an emotional core which runs the viewer hot and cold. There are many scenes in the first half which could have been tightened or eliminated, such as Nick Allen's scene with Sherry Nielson which seems to take forever to get up off the ground, and is all the more grating for the profanity it contains which comes thick and fast. This also points to what occurs in the second half of HIT! which is also problematic in retrospect.

Where the first segment of the movie was slow in setting the scene for viewers, the second part concentrates on the execution of Nick Allen's plan in more rapid fashion. This also has a jarring effect as the killings take place one after the other, and there is little, or no, toll on the people who carry these out. While there is some exploration of characters hesitant with what they are about to do, such as in Ida's case, it is rarely shown, except in Sherry's case, how they feel after being involved in these killings. Again, events just happen, without any reactions exhibited by characters. This renders the film rather cold and systematic, more of a stylistic exercise than anything else. It is as if the ducks have been set up to be fired at, with just finding different ways of murdering people to provide short-term thrills and spills. Despite these deficiencies, HIT! does have some strengths that provide reprieve when watching the movie.

While HIT! does contain violent content, it is much milder than what was occurring onscreen at this time in other crime movies. Some of the killings are quite disturbing to witness, but Mr Furie does not linger too long at these moments, preferring to cut away completely when the action could become too intense or gory. This has the effect of making the film less exploitative of human carnage than others, thereby making it all the more artistic, its restraint admirable under the circumstances. The handling of the film's most heart-rending moments is also very good, particularly Ida's scenes as she recounts what happened in her life. Ida seeing a drugged man in the room, which brings back haunting memories, is probably the film's most true to life, insightful segment. The introduction of some black comedy inserts in the second half seems slightly strange, as the first part was mostly serious in nature, but, it does work in an unconventional way, giving the film some oomph when least expected. Aside from these points, even though the film is quite uneven in its combination of elements, there is something about it that should be noted. HIT! should be commended as a film that does not glamorize drug trafficking and abuse, its director's sincerity in taking on this issue laudable.

Acting: The acting in HIT! is one of its strongest assets. In the lead role of Nick Allen, Billy Dee Williams has his trademark easy-going charm which always makes him a great actor to watch, but this time coupled with a more thoughtful undercurrent which works well in the film. He is the ideal choice for a central character, with both humorous, and edgier moments performed with panache by Mr Williams. His chemistry with the other characters should also be mentioned, working well with characters of all temperaments in the movie. As Mike Willmer, Richard Pryor is well matched with Billy Dee Williams, Mr Pryor's more explosive style a good contrast to Mr Williams' smooth charisma. Mr Pryor is well-known for his use of expletives in other films which sometimes becomes too much to bear, but in this film his swearing has a definite purpose, and reason for being. As a man who has lost someone to drugs, his anger-fuelled swearing sessions take on a more emotional significance in HIT!, giving his performance, and the film, as a whole, added credence. The remainder of the cast do a fine job in the movie which immeasurably assists it.

Janet Bandt, as Ida, a woman who has lost her son to drugs, is excellently portrayed by Miss Bandt. In both her most emotional, and in the black comedy scenes, she projects the utmost sincerity and realism, being the film's finest female acting contribution. On the other hand, while she tries hard, Gwen Welles did not seem to register in her role as Sherry. Possibly she was miscast in the film, but the movie needed someone such as Barbara Hershey, or Margot Kidder, to give the role more impetus, to make the scenes more powerful. There is, though, one supporting role in HIT! which is particularly noteworthy, but too brief on screen. As Carlin, the live wire, trigger-happy hitman, David Zooey Hall adds another distinctive portrayal to his gallery of exceptional film performances. An actor who appeared in little more than a handful of films, his interpretations of characters are unique viewing experiences. As always, Mr Hall makes his character a real, flesh and blood person for the viewer, in what is a seamless melding of actor and character. One of the delights of seeing late 1960s, and 1970s films is witnessing Mr Hall's performances which are intriguing, and penetrating.

Soundtrack: Lalo Schifrin's score is insistent in tone but suits HIT! perfectly. It especially emphasizes the film during its quieter stretches such as the funeral of Nick Allen's daughter, but is utilized in a spare manner throughout, this working out for the best for the film overall. The score is reminiscent of previous movies set in World War II with its drum beat, the implication being that HIT! is also a war film of sorts in the gun battles and its other carefully staged sequences of mayhem, death and destruction.

Mise-en-scene: Use of locations and sets is one of the best aspects of HIT! The outdoor sequences are filmed with vigor and style by the director, the car chase scenes exciting, and choice of locations such as the wintry fishing town where the team are staying appropriate. Other places such as Sherry's hotel room, the fashion house, and various restaurants are also well selected, and of a high standard. Costuming is also excellent, with Mr Williams and Mr Hall, in particular, wearing sartorially elegant garments, and the remainder of the cast also decked out in clothing which fits with the personality of their characters. Additionally, the opening credits are entirely in black and white, only displaying the names of the cast and crew. Accompanied by Lalo Schifrin's score, these imply for the viewer a feeling of immediacy, and suspense, with what is to follow. 

Award-worthy performances in my opinion: Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, Janet Bandt, David Zooey Hall.

Suitability for young viewers: No. Frequent coarse language, female nudity, adult themes, medium-level violence.

Overall GradeC

LinkIMDB Page

Trailer