Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974)

MV5BMTQ0NzU4NjQ5N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzM1MTQ3NA@@._V1_SY1023_CR26,0,630,1023_AL_Review by Rob Munday

Following the re-issue of Michael Cimino’s flawed opus, Heaven’s Gate, comes the crisp Blu-Ray revival of his debut Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (also available on DVD).

The star-name here, however, was not the tyro director, but its grizzled star, Clint Eastwood. This is an odd-couple-road-movie-cum-comic-crime-caper concerning Clint’s stolid old crook and Jeff Bridges’ eager chancer.

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It’s an enjoyably hokey adventure in which our heroes stay on the move pursued by inept gunmen on both sides of the law.

This is Clint in comic knockabout mode clearly indicating his move toward the slapstick orangutan hi-jinks of Every Which Way But Loose and its successors (that also featured the ‘just been caught with his pants down’ face of Geoffrey Lewis). Both Eastwood and Bridges add weight to underwritten roles. Clint’s Thunderbolt is gruff gravitas in slacks, a tough individualist forced into sharing a ride. As his fresh-faced companion, Bridges’ Lightfoot is an affront to this typical Eastwood persona. He showers Thunderbolt with love and affection – determined to make the granite face crack a smile.

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Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is 1970s America in the sunshine: the glory of the open road, the windswept haircuts, the Honky Tonk soundtrack, a brief appearance by Gary Busey, and an attitude to women that’s equivalent to a seaside dirty postcard. In fact the whole venture is a postcard from another time with lovingly captured panoramic vistas and an enduring holiday mood.

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For a director known for his excesses this is a modest but defiantly epic work. There was no way Clint would put up with doing fifty takes and whilst this film belongs more to the star than it’s writer/director, Cimino does bring a sure-handed grandness to proceedings. Although very different in tone, you can’t help but notice the hints of Cimino’s future work: the close attention on a few circling characters all set against a vast canvas; the adoration of the American landscape and push toward the mythical. Despite the quality on show here you get the nagging feeling that Cimino already had one eye on the icy peaks of Pennsylvania and those elusive deer. Great things were to come and you can sense the optimism in the air.

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The Deer Hunter (1978)

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Fresh on our Shelves (fresh, like spring rain… pfff):

So it’s spring – that time of year known for its hail storms; when the sky parts and the clouds vomit a years worth of icy grit; London is awash with the traditional monsoons – one raindrop away from washing down the Thames and landing us all in Calais or back on the beaches of Dunkirk; and where everyone shivers at home, trying to warm themselves by a roaring candle. Ah, May! Some say summer’s coming. But what’s that?

Once we’re done jumping in the puddles and gloating that we probably need never wash our cars again, let us huddle around the glow of our TVs, for whilst the wind has been battering our coiffeurs, spring has sprung to our shelves (yes, they have been dusted recently) and brought us a fresh brood:

MPW-29785BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956)

Nicholas Ray takes on attitudes towards mental illness and addiction and brings out a powerhouse performance from lead actor, James Mason.  A seriously ill man (Mason) is persuaded by doctors to take a new miracle pill which he soon finds, not only eliviates the symptoms of his illness, but leaves him feeling really remarkably well indeed. So well, in fact, that he inevitably begins to abuse this wonder drug by significantly upping his dosage, causing wild side effects and a psychotic break that threatens the welfare of himself and his family. Co-starring Barbara Rush as the suffering wife. Watch out for the son with his mini-James Dean red windbreaker,  à la Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause:

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Rebel-Without-a-Cause_James-Dean-jeans-cake.bmpI wonder what the cake signifies… Definitely daddy issues – possibly of the oedipal variety. Oh, for a peak into the mind of Nicholas Ray. Actually, if that sounds appetising – check out Lightening Over Water (1980), the bizarre, spellbinding, and deeply affecting experimental docu-film Wim Wenders made on his friend whilst Ray, who was dying of cancer, was attempting to complete his final film.

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lindsay-i-know-who-killed-me-25147503-800-600I Know Who Killed Me (2007)

Is it amazing? Is it atrocious? Most people (including the good folk at IMDb) believe the latter. Well. If you’ve watched a lot of cult/B-movies you might well see the genius in it. If you haven’t, then its atrocious. And, yes, it does have Lindsay Lohan girating on a pole, which was probably info enough to send most critics into the cinema with bazookas. Just watch it as though it were a cult classic (which it should be, if it hasn’t reached that status yet). Squint and imagine it was made in 1971. Basically, don’t throw rotten eggs til you’ve seen it. Then, knock yourselves out.

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escape_from_alcatrazESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979) – dir. Don Siegel

Based on a true story. Self-explanatory.

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MPW-33975WHO’S THAT GIRL (1987) – dir. James Foley, who also directed At Close Range (1986) (starring Madonna’s then-husband, Sean Penn) and the infinitely superior, Glengarry Glen Ross (1992). I have nothing to say about this. And I actually quite like Madonna.

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masked_and_anonymousMASKED AND ANONYMOUS (2003) – dir. Larry Charles (who also direct Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno AND The Dictator). Starring every famous person who has ever lived (which immediately makes me suspicious) – including Bob Dylan.

posted by Dixie Turner

Film of the Day: YOJIMBO (1961)

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Yojimbo (1961), directed by Akira Kurosawa.

Another film that stumped nearly everyone at our film quiz last Monday was the samurai classic, Yojimbo. The question was in relation to the fact that Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti western is an unofficial remake of this film – a fact that no-one seemed to know.

A-fistful-of-yojimboWide and low-angle shots showing just the head and torso of the protagonist – the famous Man With No Name – is just the beginning of all the possible points of comparison, not least of all being the plot. The Man With No Name (so-called, not necessarily because he remains nameless, so much as because he enters the site of action as an outsider, unrecognised and mistrusted; his past and origins a mystery; his intentions unknown), a ronin called Sanjuro (in Dollars called Joe) enters a town divided by, and in the clutches of, two rival gangs.

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He quickly assesses the situation and decides the town would be better off if both gangs were wiped out.

yojimTo this end he hires himself out as a master swordsman, first to the leader of one gang and then, later, to the other, all the while manipulating both and causing fatalities on both sides until, ultimately, he is the last one standing, leaving the town free.

zatoichi-meets-yojimbo_05pBeautiful cinematography, music and mise-en-scene mark this as one of Kurosawa’s finest achievements and amongst his most influential films. But it is also not surprising that it led to the fantastic homage that is A Fistful of Dollars. In fact, Kurosawa himself was much influenced by American cinema and was particularly taken with westerns as a genre, a fact that is obvious in Yojimbo. So really, Sergio Leone just brings the whole thing full circle from western gunslinger to Japanese ronin to western gunslinger: Hamburger western to udon western to spaghetti western.

Slurp!

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posted by Dixie Turner