Archive for the 'Film Reviews' Category

12
Oct
11

“The Appaloosa” (1966)

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Co-stars: John Saxon, Anjanette Comer, Emilio Fernández

Character: Matt Fletcher

In his career, Brando starred in only three westerns. This was one of them. He plays a bison hunter and drifter who has returned home to his family in order to start a ranch with his small fortune and prized appaloosa stallion. Unfortunately for him, a cruel Mexican bandit and his girlfriend have targeted his horse, and steal it from him. Brando’s character spends the rest of the film attempting to retrieve the horse.

It’s a simple plot.

Upon reception, the film was critically panned, and a commercial failure. By this point, Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood had popularized the spaghetti western, and the indulgent camera angles and film work went unappreciated by both the general public and critics alike. They weren’t wrong about this- there are many shots where I found myself thinking “now what is the point of this?” Brando’s performance is also criticized for being underwhelming, as it was well documented that the star had lost interest in production halfway through. So why did he take the film? Alimony, bitches! Alimony to two ex-wives (Anna and Movita). One can venture a guess that child support was also a factor in taking on a role he didn’t care about in the least.

"Aww fuck not another lawsuit!"

However, despite all that, I found myself enjoying the movie. It was everything the past few Brando movies hadn’t been: short, concise, and to the point. The plot was very simple, and in that there were no pointless subplots weighing down an otherwise decent story. There was no overacting, and the cheese was (more or less) intentional and tongue in cheek. It is neither high drama nor slapstick comedy, settling for being generally amusing. When the plot threatened to drag, its short running time (just over an hour and a half) kept the film in check. Perhaps most notable of a Brando film in this period: it has no overarching lesson on morality.

One striking complaint from critics at this point was that Brando was cashing in on his star, showing no real artistry in the film. They’re probably right, it’s neither groundbreaking work nor would he have been a huge star if he had debuted with this. My one complaint watching this was Brando’s physicality- he looks pretty sloppy on camera, hiding under a poncho that cannot conceal his gut. I don’t hold it against him as a person- power to the cheeseburger loving brother! But it’s hard to imagine a 19th century cowboy type being this pudgy. It doesn’t suit the character, and it detracts from the film. You know, it’s kind of like when Russel Crowe was all fat and shit in Robin Hood. Just not right man, not right. Overall, I still found myself entertained and not hideously underwhelmed. I also can’t help but appreciate Marlon for personally nixing all “cowboys and Indians” fight scenes, even at the expense of the film’s action. Therefore, thumb up.

Quotes: “Well, I’ve done a lot of killin’. I’ve killed a lot of men and sinned a lot of women. But the men I killed needed killin’ and the women wanted sinnin’, and well, I never was one much to argue.”

“The next time you point a gun at me, you better pull that trigger, because I’m going to blow you into so many pieces your friends will get tired of looking for you.”

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11
Oct
11

“The Chase” (1966)

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Co-stars: Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, E.G. Marshall, Angie Dickinson, Robert Duvall, James Fox

Character: Sheriff Calder

In The Chase, Brando stars as the sheriff of a small Texas town, and an honorable man the townspeople think is the puppet of a rich oil tycoon. The film spans a Saturday night of local debauchery, as Sheriff Calder tries to locate the escaped convict Bubber Reeves (played by Robert Redford), a notorious hoodlum who is accused of murder. Bubber is shown at the beginning of the film to have not killed the man, and the film follows his elaborate escape across the Texas land. Sheriff Calder comes across as tired and disinterested in his job, and it is found out that he was a farmer who had lost his land, and Val Rogers, the aforementioned oil tycoon, had set him up with the sheriff job. He attempts to be fair and keep law and order in the town, but the citizens are immoral and show him no respect, and Rogers expects special privileges and information be give to him.

The director spends the first hour of the film establishing characters, moods, and morality of the town. At the halfway point, I was still unsure what the film was about, aside from reading a synopsis online. A lot of time is spent mythologizing Bubber Reeve, and we’re never quite told what he was in jail for in the first place, although it seems he is just a petty thief who fails at actually thieving. We also spend a lot of time with the wide supporting cast, showing the townspeople to be caught between the free love of the ’60’s and the old prejudices of the South.  In the second hour, the action picks up, with the male locals drunk and looking for violence. They target a black man, but when Calder intervenes, he is targeted. In fact, this film is best known for the violent, bloody beating of Sheriff Calder at the hands of drunken vigilantes.

The film had a fantastic all star cast, lead by Brando only in name really, as the wide ensemble got plenty of individual screen time. Everyone carried their own weight in the film, and the future legends were all on their A-game, not allowing Brando to completely blast them out of the water. The film suffers through technicalities. It runs far too long, the ending is more of a slap than an uppercut, and the fictionalized Texas is a confusing place that doesn’t seem to really exist. It is not the performances that are weak, but the script, editing, and direction (although the director spoke out against the control taken from him by the producer, who oversaw the script re-writes and editing which stripped the film of all Brando’s best moments and improvisations). The main thing about the town and citizens is that they’re all caricatured stereotypes, people who don’t exist except for in the imagination of an angry liberal (or in the scriptwriter’s case, angry Stalinist). After reflecting on the film, it could have been an incredibly exciting classic, had it been in the hands of a greater director and the characters had been given a little more moral ambiguity. It is the same thing that pulled that pulled down Brando’s previous film, The Fugitive Kind. The film also suffers from the Technicolor, which makes the unrealistic town all the more unrealistic. It is these shortcomings that caused the film to flop and critics to pan it. I like to imagine what the film could have been, in the hands of someone like Roman Polanski.

All in all, Brando’s performance is very good, of what is shown in the film. It’s a bit better overall than other films of his in recent years at this point in his career, and it’s a tragedy that many of his improvisations and inspired moments ended up on the cutting room floor. Thumb up.

Quotes: Damon “Well now, Sheriff, it’s nice to know that you’re out here on patrol. ”
Sheriff Calder “No, no, I’m not on patrol. Just lookin’ for an ice cream cone, that’s all.”

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09
Oct
11

“Morituri” (1965)

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Co-stars: Yul Brynner, Janet Margolin, Trevor Howard

Character: Robert Crain

Morituri tells the story of Robert Crain, a German pacifist who escapes a WWII tour of duty by fleeing to India. There he is affluent and lives a comfortable lifestyle, but the British military intelligence tracks him down and promises to send him back to Germany if he doesn’t carry out a sabotage in the interest of the Allies. His mission is to sabotage a German ship en route from Japan to Germany carrying the precious resource of rubber.  He has to prevent the ship from being scuttled, the act of a Captain intentionally sinking his ship, as the British wish to capture the rubber from the Germans. To get aboard the ship, he poses as an SS officer, and has the eyes of the ship’s Captain on him at all times.

“Morituri” is derived from the Latin term “morituri te salutamus“, meaning “we (or those) who are about to die salute thee”. It is a fitting if confusing movie title. As Crain plays the role of the SS officer (who’s behavior he doesn’t understand), he has to be suave, authoritative, and not draw attention to himself. As he skulks about the bottom of the ship sabotaging it, he is nearly seen or caught with every turn he takes. My breath was on hold with every close encounter. His mission is a suicidal one, and we know that the whole time watching the film.

The film is heavily weighed down by too many subplots. There are German political prisoners aboard the ship who wish to overthrow it so they don’t have to return to Germany, and who also wish to kill Crain, believing him to be an officer of the SS. A Jewish American girl is taken as a prisoner by another German vessel and handed over to the rubber ship, where she acts as more of metaphor for her people than an actual character. There is also Yul Brynner’s Captain Mueller, a career sailor with a tendency towards emotional drunkenness. Clocking in at over two hours, it becomes convoluted and tiring to watch, which is unfortunate due to the interesting and exciting nature of the first half of the film. It’s only partially satisfying- like when you want greasy take out pizza but pick one up at the grocery store to bake in your own oven instead.

The unfortunate thing is that Brando is really damn good as Robert Crain. He has that spot on German accent he rocked in The Young Lions again, and with his German heritage, it’s perfect. He teeters between compassion and self interest, and kept me on the edge of my seat with the potential that he could be revealed at any moment as a double agent. Yul Brynner was also strong and commanding in his role, and if the script and direction had matched the quality of their performances, it could have been a classic. Sadly, Morituri falls short of greatness.

Overall, the film is pretty decent, with great aspects that were crowded and weighed down by dead weight. I give it a thumb up. Morituri has successfully earned the participation award.

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25
Sep
11

“Bedtime Story” (1964)

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Co-stars: David Niven, Shirley Jones

Character: Freddy Benson

Welcome back from the dead, Marlon Brando movie project! Wow, I watched this film a few weeks ago, and am only writing the post right now. I’m going to keep this brief though, so as to not prolong my suffering. What can I say that hasn’t been said by a critic already? I don’t know. But I’m going to try.

Bedtime Story was Brando’s first, and only, starring turn in a direct genre comedy. It tells the story of two con men, Freddy Benson and Lawrence Jameson, who swindle women for sex and money. Brando’s Benson is an American soldier stationed in Germany, and his scam with women involves targeting attractive women, photographing their houses, and pretending that the houses are his sick grandmother’s childhood home. Jameson, meanwhile, lives in a chalet on the French Riviera, and pretends to be a displaced European prince in order to separate rich women from their jewels. The two men meet and briefly work together, Benson usually portraying Jameson’s “special” younger brother. Eventually, the men come to feel that they both can’t work the same town, and create a competition where the first man to separate a woman from $25,000 (I think, don’t quote me on that) gets to stay, and the other has to lead town.

The main problems with this film are the script, and the direction. The script  falls flat, with dull dialogue and predictable outcomes. The direction is bland and uninspired, leaving the actors to their own devices. The general consensus of the film is that David Niven carries it, and while he is a comic legend, his decidedly British aesthetic whimpers and dies below the dead weight of the dialogue. Brando’s character calls for more physical comedy, unlike Niven’s refined “gentleman”. He hams it up with silly faces, voices, and sudden bursts of energy. While playing the “special” young prince during the two men’s collaborative cons, he leaps about, climbs up walls, and growls at rich ladies. It’s one of the few laughable parts of the film, but a big part of it is the ridiculousness of seeing the brilliant and legendary Brando leapfrog about in a prince costume while growling and acting like a toddler. It’s bizarre.

The premise of the film is clever and entertaining, but the execution is tepid and painfully predictable. The ending is especially grueling with it’s grossly moral happy ending. However, the film was unofficially remade in 1988 as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, to much more critical and commercial success. That film was turned into a 2005 stage musical of the same name starring John Lithgow. It can be so interesting to find out a film’s legacy, especially when a film is less than notable.

Brando said that this film was one of the most enjoyable he ever made, as he got to work with a comedic actor he respected and have a lot of laughs on set. It is visibly clear that the man is enjoying himself throughout the film, but he is held back by poor source material and a lack of natural talent for comedy acting. It made it his most contrived work to date. Even Désirée, where he simply didn’t seem to care, was not this contrived. As well, I personally couldn’t help but feel that the now 40 year old Brando playing a younger soldier was a bit silly. While still handsome and youthful featured, it had been 13 years since he was in Streetcar, and he had clearly aged. But I digress. Overall, the film is mildly amusing but generally lukewarm, and left me shaking my head and with the feeling that doing the household chores would have been an ultimately more rewarding experience. Thumbs down.

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30
Aug
11

“The Ugly American” (1963)

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Co-stars: Sandra Church, Eiji Okada, Pat Hingle, Judson Pratt, Arthur Hill, Jocelyn Brando

Awards: Nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama

Character: Ambassador Harrison Carter MacWhite

Well here goes: my first post in quite some time. I watched this film for the first time the evening before I embarked on my vacation, but didn’t have time to write a post that night. I re-watched it last night in order to refresh my memory, and have been struggling to find the words to describe the film since. I find myself struggling with films like these, but I’ll get into that further at a later point.

The film follows the US ambassador to the fictional Southeast Asian country of Sarkhan, Harrison Carter MacWhite (clearly a man with three last names- so confused he is that he goes by “Mac” to his friends). He is an accomplished journalist who’s only real qualification for the job is being in Sarkhan during the war and befriending a man who would become a leader of the people, Deong. He is a well mannered scholar and democratic idealist, who is shaken by the senate hearing he goes through before arriving in Sarkhan. One senator tries to claim that Deong is a communist, something which MacWhite denies, and something that isn’t true.

"What do you mean there's no 24 hour McDonald's in Sarkhan?"

When he arrives at the airport with his wife, a large scale but peaceful protest had been attempted, but a riot had broken out amongst the Sarkhanese. They had been sent there by his friend Deong, who had implored them to be quiet and peaceful. After scolding the laziness of the American diplomats at the Embassy, he heads to Deong’s house for a night of catching up and whiskey. The night starts out good, with talks of life, women, and Deong rowing a drunken Mac down his moat, as Mac pesters a turtle (wat). Of course, Deong tells Mac about his involvement in the incident earlier that day, and well, a drunken ideological argument ensues. It later turns into a drunken ideological battle, with Mac convinced that Deong is a communist (he’s not).

The focus of the film is the building of “Freedom Road”, a large highway built by the Americans to help improve infrastructure and the economy in the tiny country. However, the local Sarkhanese people don’t want it to be built, as they see it as a sign of American imperialism and a power grab in the Cold War, of which they rightfully want no part of. After Mac becomes convinced that Deong is a communist, he boldly, and stupidly, pushes the building of the highway forward, showing no regard for the calls from the people.

The country of Sarkhan and the story of The Ugly American are an obvious metaphor for Vietnam and US policy in the country at the time. It puts the blame on the ignorance and lack of understanding by the American government and the people representing it in the region, as well as the poor and boorish manners of those living there. It makes many broad and generally accurate statements about American people in foreign countries, and this caused some people to denounce the film as being anti-American (it’s not). It does however fall short at delivering its message boldly and effectively.

And not a single fuck was given that day...

This is not Brando’s best performance ever, and one of his blandest by this point in his career. Of course, it wouldn’t win him a Razzie… it’s just, average. It’s uninspired. It’s not the Brando we think of when we think of Brando. For me, there are moments of inspired clarity that remind me of the Brando we know and love. One in particular: when he comes home after a long first day at the embassy, he comes home to find his wife sleeping with her foot out of the covers. After trying to cover it, she tells him not to. He sits down on the bed as he simultaneously swings her foot onto his laps and then proceeds to massage her foot and leg. It’s intimate, it’s real, it’s nice. If you watch the film, I guarantee you will smile at the simplistic naturalism of it all.

As Brando moves through the film, he comes across as incredibly tired. It works usually within the context of the film, but it’s not really an act. His personal life was more or less a bloody disaster. He was having career troubles, island troubles, and lady troubles- incredible amounts of lady troubles. He was in and out of court with his first wife Anna Kashfi, his first wife, fighting for custody for his first son Christian. His second marriage to Movita Castenada had all but crumbled, and his divorce to her was pending. Their son together had turned into a little monster.  As well, he had taken up with Tarita Teriipia, and she was still in Tahiti, taking care of the child he had conceived with her. It should be noted that Trojan’s started being sold in 1927, Brando obviously just didn’t know how to use them, and never did figure them out, as brother had a lot of children. So many, in fact, that I like to play a little guessing game with people, called “Who had more children: Marlon Brando or Ol’ Dirty Bastard?” Try and guess, I’ll reveal it at the end.

"You play ridiculous games, sir."

This is by no means a bad movie. It’s just not a really good film either. If I were a legitimate film reviewer, I’d be giving it 2 and 1/2 or 3 stars at most, depending on if I use a 4 or 5 star rating system. It’s not torturous, but it’s not memorable. I probably couldn’t give the details of this film in a month, whereas with many of his early films, I could. It has good and bad elements. It needs to be pointed out, that to me, Brando’s characterization comes across as bizarro mash up of Brad Pitt’s Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglorious Basterds, and former Canadian politician Jack Layton (RIP). This is probably because it’s a good looking Hollywood actor wearing a ridiculous mustache and playing an idealistic government worker. This mustache is absolutely hilarious too- watch it throughout the film- for it is a wonderfully subtle continuity fail. It changes thickness throughout the film, sometimes within the same day. The score of the film is also really great- carrying the majority of the emotional weight of the film. It’s really good actually. Anyways, to wrap up, I’d rate this film a chin on a fist- huh.

Answer to “Who had more children: Marlon Brando or Ol’ Dirty Bastard?”: Confirmed- Brando. He had 11. However, it is unclear just how many Ol’ Dirty Bastard had- it is thought he had up to 13. As well, some sources claim Brando fathered 13 children, but they’re most likely wrong. The numbers are confusing though, as he never discussed his family with the public, and rightfully so.

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08
Aug
11

“Mutiny On The Bounty” (1962)

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Co-stars: Trevor Howard, Dumbledore Richard Harris, Hugh Griffith, Richard Haydn, Tarita Tariipia, Percy Herbert, Duncan Lamont

Character1st Lt. Fletcher Christian

The sweeping epic that nearly sunk MGM and Brando’s career, it is in turns enthralling and exhausting. It is the fourth of five films telling the story of the Bounty, and other Fletcher Christian’s include Errol Flynn, Mel Gibson, and Clark Gable. This Mutiny on the Bounty is actually a remake of the Clark Gable film of the same name, with an entirely different characterization of Fletcher by Brando.

As the ship is boarding, we meet the main crew members that will be instrumental in the inevitable mutiny, including Seaman John Mills. Captain William Bligh boards, and he is quickly established as a hard ass. We also meet William Brown, the horticulturist in charge of overseeing the transport of the breadfruit to the slaves of Jamaica. He is an intellectual who wishes to assimilate himself with the other seamen, and receive no special treatment. Soon a highly ridiculous carriage is drawn close to the ship, and two pretty women exit it, followed by the 1st Lieutenant of the ship, Fletcher Christian. He is an aristocratic sort, with an effete accent and a ridiculous hat. Bligh and Christian’s first impressions of each other are not good, coming from different backgrounds and different sensibilities.

Soon after the ship sets sail, a seaman goes to Fletcher to report another man for stealing cheese. As Fletcher is listening to the man and the man accused, Captain Bligh walks past and overhears. Annoyed with Fletcher’s mediation methods, he orders the cheese to be half rationed until the amount lost is made up. Angry, the accused, John Mills, tells the other seamen that the Captain ordered him to steal the cheese for him. Unfortunately for him, the Captain and other officers of the ship overhear him, and he is told he is to be punished. The next scene shows the men on deck witnessing the punishment- 2 dozen lashes on the back. Fletcher is disgusted by the brutality of the punishment, and asks Bligh if this is the punishment for a minor infraction (nearly whipping a man to death), what will the punishment be for a major infraction? Bligh shares his philosophy on governing a ship:

Now don’t mistake me. I’m not advising cruelty or brutality with no purpose. My point is that cruelty with purpose is not cruelty – it’s efficiency. Then a man will never disobey once he’s watched his mate’s backbone laid bare. He’ll see the flesh jump, hear the whistle of the whip for the rest of his life.

The men keep their heads down, but Bligh grows increasingly brutal. A deeply ambitious man who hopes to impress the British Navy with his effectiveness, he changes the course of the ship from the safe Eastbound route to the dangerous westbound route currently entrenched in the middle of a cruel winter. The weather is a nightmare, and the men fight the treacherous winds for weeks. One incident sees a large barrel of water come loose below the deck of the ship. Fletcher and a group of men try to stop it from destroying the entire space, but in order to secure the thing they need the ship to go temporarily still. In his cabin, the Captain is sleeping. As the ship evens out, he wakes up, and storms to the deck, demanding to know what happened. When he finds out that Fletcher has ordered the ship to be steadied, he has them resume their path, Fletcher be damned. Down below, the men almost have the barrels secured, when the sudden movement causes a large barrel to lurch forward, crushing a man. Fletcher and the others try to remove it, but unable to, they have to crack the thing open and let the water out. The man has already died, much to the Captain’s antipathy, and Fletcher’s disgust.

Finally, the men arrive in Tahiti, where they are met with a joyous welcome from the locals, especially the scantily clad and sexually free women. Only Bligh doesn’t enjoy his time on the island, angry that they arrived during the breadfruit’s dormant period, meaning the Bounty had to stay in Tahiti for months until the breadfruit could be transported across the ocean. That Tahitians show good will by having sex, and there is much good will around the island. When the king’s daughter, Princess Maimiti, attempts to seduce Fletcher, he is caught in the bushes with her by Bligh, who orders him to stop for fear of the king’s reaction. The reaction is opposite: he is angry that his daughter is not good enough for a British officer, and so Bligh awkwardly orders a smug Fletcher Christian to show good will to the Princess.

Eventually the men have to leave the island, and they board the ship to set sail for Jamaica. Three men, including Mills, attempt to abandon the ship and stay in Tahiti forever. However, Fletcher and some other officers catch them, and they under the Captain’s orders, they are shackled in the basement whenever they are not on duty. Bligh is also angry that the expedition is behind schedule, so he takes out his hostilities on the crew. When Brown, the horticulturist, tells Bligh that many of the breadfruit plants will die to a shortage of a water, he is told to use all the water he need. In response, he rations the men’s drinking water in a highly elaborate fashion. One man with a fever, dies as he attempts to reach the water, plunging to his death. When this, a man from the ship attacks the Captain, attempting to strangle him. When he is pulled off, Bligh orders him to be keelhauled, an illegal practice, without a trial. No one tries to stop it, as they do not wish to cross Bligh.

As Bligh’s tyranny rages on, Fletcher’s disgust and distaste for him grows, egged on by Mills and other men on the ship. When a man is discovered to be drinking seawater, babbling incoherently and going mad, Fletcher appears to disappear below the deck. However, he soon returns with his own ladle from the officer’s water stores, and attempts to give the man some fresh water in order to save his life. Bligh sees this, and gives him an order to stop. Fletcher agrees, and then continues to give the man water anyways. When Bligh strikes Fletcher, he strikes back, and quickly rushes into the motions of a mutiny. He takes command of the ship, and after a nasty exchange of words, sends Bligh and the ship’s Loyalists on a boat to the closest island with the tools needed to get there. Believing he has done the right thing, he is understandably upset by his rash actions, for he has forever given up his Aristocratic lifestyle. The remaining mutineers head back to Tahiti to drop off some Loyalists who couldn’t fit in the boat, and to pick up some man power to operate the ship.

The film took approximately two years to complete, and the production ran way, way over budget, nearly bankrupting the studio. Much of the cost was blamed on Brando’s ego and behavior, although the entire crew had treated Tahiti as their playground. Allegedly at one point, a doctor had to be flown from America to treat many of the  men for gonorrhea, including Brando. The Bounty used in the film was actually the Bounty II, the first ship ever constructed for a film from original blueprints. When the film was released, it was met by mostly negative reviews, and was considered a financial failure, even though it was the 6th highest grossing film of 1962, due to the huge budget. Brando’s characterization of Fletcher Christian was also criticized, many people hating his ridiculous accent and his rather gay demeanor, especially in contrast to Clark Gable’s masculine portrayal of the same character. However, his genius is at work in the film, most notably when he insisted upon laying on bricks of ice for minutes at a time in order to accurately replicate the death tremors of a burn victim. It’s brilliant.

In the grand scheme of summer blockbusters, this is actually a pretty good one. It may have seemed like indulgent crap at the time, but it is the kind of indulgent crap that viewers are used to every summer. At least the film isn’t dated indulgent crap, and the big budget has made it age well visually (it’s getting a Blu-Ray release). The Bounty II was even used as an extra ship in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Mindlessly entertaining, but the story flows. It wouldn’t have suffered a shorter run time though, clocking in around 3 hours. Thumbs up.

Quotes: “I believe I did what honour dictated and that belief sustains me, except for a slight desire to be dead which I’m sure will pass.”

“Well you’ve done rather well, Ned. Promoted to the rank of criminal. Not even 20 and a death sentence on your head. ”

“We need only persuade the British people of something they already know – that inhumanity is its poorest servant.”

“You remarkable pig. You can thank whatever pig god you pray to that you haven’t turned me into a murderer.”

“I assure you, sir, that the execution of my duties is entirely unaffected by my private opinion of you.”

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06
Aug
11

“One-Eyed Jacks” (1961)

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Co-stars: Karl Malden, Pina Pellicer, Ben Johnson, Katy Jurado, Slim Pickens, Larry Duran

Character: Rio

This rambling yet stylish western not only starred the man of the hour (in perhaps the least flattering pants of all time), but was directed by him as well (which could explain all the crotch shots). Also, his company produced it.  He oversaw the editing process initially, too, but his version was allegedly over 5 hours long. Which pretty much sounds like Brando.

We first see our hero sitting down and eating. Which sounds about right. The scene pans out and we see that he is actually casually robbing a bank with a few other guys, including his best friend Dad Longworth. They escape the law to a relaxed inn, where the men proceed to celebrate by seducing women. Of course, the law catches up, and the ring Rio was using to seduce a young lady with has to be quickly repo’d. The one guy is shot and killed, but Dad and Rio manage to ride off on stolen horses. After awhile, Rio’s horse gives out, and the two of them ride off on one horse together. Of course, that horse gets tired too, having two chubby middle aged men riding it. So, they hide behind a ridge and fire at the Mexican lawmen chasing them. Eventually, they realize that this plan will not pan out in the long run. Dad goes off to find them two horses to escape, and Rio holds the ridge. Dad never returns, and Rio is captured.

Five years later, Rio and his chain gang buddy, Chico Modesto, manage to escape the hellhole that is the Mexican prison they were in. Rio has only one thing on his mind- revenge on Dad. He heads off, in search of Dad in Mexico. Ending up in a former haunt of Dad’s, he runs into two guys who wish to rob a bank in Monterey, California.. The one guy, Bob Emory, approaches Rio to join them, but when he turns him down, he dangles a very intriguing bit of news in front of him: Dad is the sheriff of Monterey. Given an opportunity to kill Dad and rob a bank at the same time, Rio cannot resist. And so the four outlaws head on horseback from Mexico to California.

When they arrive, Rio immediately looks for Dad. He heads to the sheriff’s office, where he meets the deputy, Lon Dedrick- whom he clashes with automatically. A local tells Rio how to find Dad’s home, and he heads there. When he arrives, Dad sees him, and greets him warily, hand on pistol. Instead of the anticipated bloodbath, the men share a hug, and appear to make amends, based on lies told by both parties. It would seem that Rio is almost as good an actor as Brando himself. Dad invites Rio into his home, and to stay over for dinner. Inside, he introduces him to his wife Maria, and his step-daughter Louisa, a fragile looking young Mexican girl. A tragic side note, the young actress who played Louisa would commit suicide a few years later at age 30. Back inside the Longworth house though, the men reminisce about the good ol’ days of bank robbing together, before they got tragically separated. You see, Rio doesn’t tell Dad he’s been in jail for the past 5 years, and Dad tells Rio there was only the one horse to take- but Rio knows otherwise. Rio heads back into town that night, his resolve to kill Dad still intact.

However, there is a fiesta in Monterey for the next two days, so the men cannot rob the bank. To occupy their time, they get drunk and scope out the town. Rio entertains himself, and the audience, by expertly seducing the young Louisa. He purchases roses and a necklace off a local woman for $30, and then sets off in search of her. They dance, and eventually he leads her away from the fiesta and towards the beach. On the beach, he tells her he works for the government, and is heading to Oregon the next day on a secret mission. He bashfully asks her to wait for him, and then presents her with the necklace, which he says is his dead mother’s most cherished possession. Meanwhile, Dad is far too hammered to care that Louisa is gone, even though Maria tries to get him to find her.

The next morning, Louisa and Rio wake up on the beach together. When she kisses him and wishes him good luck on his journey to Oregon, he plainly informs her that he isn’t going anywhere, he robs banks for a living, has no parents, and that everything he said up until that point had been a lie. Shocked and ashamed of herself, she returns the necklace, and stumbles home. There she runs into Lon, who tries to make a pass at her. When she rejects him, he wakes up Dad to tell her where she’s been. Dad is shocked and enraged, and when he confronts Louisa, who won’t tell him what happened, he has Maria talk to her. Louisa tells her the truth, but fearing Dad’s reaction, Maria lies to him. Regardless, Dad leaves the home and heads into Monterey, in search of Rio.

In Monterey, Rio has been reunited with his friend Chico in a local saloon. There, a drunken man is forcing his prostitute from the night before to keep drinking with him, and will not let her escape him, causing her to cry in pain. After awhile of watching this, Rio interjects himself between them, and beats up the guy, so the girl can escape. On the ground, the man grabs a hidden rifle, and attempts to shoot Rio. Quickly, Rio manages to avoid getting hit, and shoots the man dead. When Dad arrives on the scene, he is at first understanding of what’s happened, and appears to let Rio off on self defense. He asks Rio and Chico to carry the body out of the bar for him. When they get outside, Dad asks for Rio’s gun. Rio backs off, his hand on his pistol, and refuses to give it up. That is when Dad calls out the names of a bunch of deputies, who have their sites set on Rio. They quickly surround him, and tie him to a whipping post. Dad berates him and his type, and tells him this is his punishment for killing a man. He rips open the back of Rio’s shirt, and is handed a long and vicious looking whip. He gives him 12 lashes on the back, and Rio shakes and slowly sinks to his knees. After the whipping, Dad goes to talk to Rio, but Rio warns him that he better kill him. Dad says that won’t be necessary, and then takes the butt of a rifle and slams it down on Rio’s right hand, tied to the post, brutally breaking it. They untie Rio, stick him on a horse, and send him bleeding and broken out of town.

The four would-be bank robbers high tail it to an inn owned by an Asian family up the coast, in order to wait out Rio’s healing process. However, the whips have cut through his flesh down to the ribs and his hand is hideously mangled, and after it has healed into it’s new warped shape, he has to begin the process of re-learning how to quick draw and shoot.  Hearing he has been just up the coast for the past 5 weeks, Louisa goes up to see him- as she has something very important to tell him. When they are reunited, they realize that their attraction to each other is real, but more than ever, Rio is dead set on killing Dad. After he refuses to be talked down from the tower, Louisa leaves without telling Rio her news. That next morning, Bob Emory makes a crack about Louisa, and Rio flips the table over him and threatens to shoot him if he says anything again. After that, Emory and the other two guys decide to just head back to Mexico, with Rio staying behind. He has decided finally to abandon his revenge fantasies, in order to take Louisa and ride off with her. Unfortunately, nothing ever works out as planned.

The film runs about 2 hours and 20 minutes long, and somehow manages to cram in a whole lot of action and details yet still drag. Brando clearly had a good vision while directing the film- the acting is top notch all around, the locations used are fresh, and the film is composed of interesting and artistic shots (also crotch/butt shots, so that’s awkward). However, when he saw the finished result, Brando was incredibly unhappy with it. The studio had taken control of the editing process, stripping it down closer to a more traditional cut and dry Western, and away from the Greek tragedy set in the west that he had envisioned. He was particularly disappointed in the way they edited the characters, making them come across as much more cut and dry heroes, vicitims, and villains. Always the true method actor, he had wanted everyone on the screen to vibrate with a duality and a humanity. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t control the film down until the end, but his original cut did run over 5 hours- I would have cried if I had to watch that film.

An obvious must-watch for the Brando fan, it’s also a unique and interesting western for fans of the genre. Some scenes are very effective- the public whipping  scene is cruel to watch and the acting from the two leads is off the charts. Karl Malden is truly a perfect foil for Brando- watching the two of them go head to head is an absolute delight. With each film they do together, Malden gets closer and closer to wiping Brando right off the screen. It’s also interesting to note that another director was supposed to do the film before Brando took over- Stanley Kubrick. All in all, an uneven film, but the good parts aren’t just good, they’re great, and the acting is fantastic. Thumb up.

Quotes: “Ambushin’ folks ain’t exactly my style, Bob.”

“You may be a one eyed jack around here, but I’ve seen the other side of your face.”

“I don’t know, Dad. You may not want me around too long. You may be retired from robbin’ banks, Dad; but I’m still in business.”

One-Eyed Jack | Marlon Brando’s One & Only Stint as Film Director 

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"He's an angel as a man and a monster as an actor."
- Bernardo Bertolucci

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