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Posts Tagged ‘John Marley’

Framed (1975) Blu-Ray Review

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

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Stars – Joe Don Baker, Gabriel Dell, John Marley, John Larch, Connny Van Dyke
Director – Phil Karlson

Released by Kino Studio Classics

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

Phil Karlson had a reputation for making tough pictures. His crime films rocked a little harder than most. His Film Noirs were not about the lovely satin moonlight that fell at twilight but more about the crashing of garbage cans on concrete sidewalks because the garage truck guys came before sunrise again. He worked in a wide variety of films and TV including a Bowery Boys film. Framed was his last movie. He had a significant piece of the one before this, Walking Tall which became an incredible runaway hit that practically invented the southern crime and car chase genre. Joe Don Baker starred in Walking Tall and Karlson brought him back for this one. The cast is one of the neatest things about Framed. John Marley who played the studio boss who woke up with a horse’s head in his bed in The Godfather is on hand as a mob boss who runs the action in the prison that Baker winds up in. Gabriel Dell who was in seemingly dozens of Bowery Boys films plays a vicious hit man with a very cool sense of humor. Anyone who ever liked Gabe at all will love him in this one. John Larch is easily recognizable from his roles in Dirty Harry and dozens of TV appearances including The Twilight Zone. Larch worked with Karlson in his legendary Phenix City Story (1955). There is a nice air of familiarity amongst the cast. This is a rugged crime tale that feels nice and comfortable.

f four

f eight

Baker plays a gambler who gets set up by the local crooked politicians. His little bag full of hard won cash is stolen and he is framed for the murder of a cop. When Conny Van Dyke his jazz singer girlfriend tries to hire detectives to help his case a couple of thugs come over and put the screws to her. Baker simmers in prison until he winds up playing card games for incarcerated mobster Marley. He and Gabe Dell play a cut throat game of cards for the kingpin. Once they all get out we have this home made network of ex cons to help Joe Don Baker get even with the people who set him up and abused his girl.  Throughout the picture it seems that Joe Don Baker is either beating the hell out of someone, sitting in a hospital bed covered in bandages or just sweating with a barely contained fury. He’s like a tea kettle that boils over only to be returned to the fire to start it all over again. The first fight scene with him has two big guys going at it. Their punches and kicks really hurt. They take turns getting slammed into the concrete floor of a garage. Karlson does not use any music to support this. All we hear are the visceral grunts and painful moans of the two till one can no longer carry on.

f seven

f five

While the film is absolutely engaging and filled with a fun cast it never achieves the necessary level of pent up rage that usually fuels these kind of films. The plot is paper thin. The corruption doesn’t get under your skin and make you want to scream out for justice. There is solid action but not quite enough behind it. After this film Joe Don Baker continued on with a successful career. For me though his role as Molly the enforcer in Charley Varrick was one of his best. Karlson on the other hand retired from the business in presumed comfort thanks to the Waling Tall proceeds. Framed may not work as well as we want it to but it still hits hard. Karlson is capable of better but it is still a must see for seventies crime fans.

f tthree

Video – 1.85:1
Colors and black levels all look fine here. The materials used look to be in good shape. The colors have that particular texture that is so distinctive of many films shot in the seventies.

Audio – Digital track with subtitles offered in English
All dialogue is easy to follow. We are treated to at least three pop jazz songs played by Conny Van Dyke and her band in the lounge. Some may bump the volume on these while other will reach for the fast forward.

Extras – Commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson., Trailer gallery.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic :

Blu-Ray – Excellent

Movie – Good

The Car (1977) Blu-Ray Review

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

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Stars – James Brolin, Ronny Cox, R. G. Amrstrong, John Marley, Kathleen Lloyd
Director – Elliot Silverstein

Released by Scream / Shout Factory

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

The first killer car movie that comes to mind is Steven Spielberg’s TV Movie Duel (1971) with a script by Richard Matheson. Matheson was a veteran science fiction writer who took easily to the demands of writing screenplays for both TV and feature films. The almost existential pursuit of businessman Dennis Weaver by the hulking behemoth diesel truck on the sparse dessert roads was a popular and well done picture. The other one that careens into my memory is John Carpenter‘s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Christine (1983). This car had personality to spare. It mowed down and crushed oppressors of owner Arnie Cunningham as a bevy of fifties rock and roll played out of its vintage radio. This one however owes much more to its parent movie studio Universal Pictures. Following the blockbuster success of Jaws (1975) the studio decided to try and replicate that formula. This time the shark would be a car loose in the deserts highways of the Southwest.

c two

c eight

The film opens with a cute couple on a bicycle ride. A large black car varooms up to them in board daylight. It pushes one up against the railing and then nudges her over the side of a huge bridge. The guy is mowed down and left by the side of the road. The next victim, again in board daylight is an obnoxious French horn playing hippie sitting by the side of a dirt road. R. G. Armstrong (White Lightning) comes outside and screams at the guy for waking him up. If you want to cast somebody to yell at kid at the crack of dawn, R. G. is your man. Shortly after he promises to stop the cars runs him over, going back and forth a few times to make sure. Okay this is pretty silly but it is a lot of fun. James Brolin (Westworld) is called into duty on the case. More great casting includes Ronny Cox (Deliverance) as a fellow deputy and John Marley (The Godfather) as the sheriff. All their hats look like they were just bought brand new the day before shooting began. However these guys are great fun to watch. John Marley who is instantly recognizable as the studio executive who woke up with the horses head in his bed in The Godfather brings great appeal to his role as the likeable old cop.

c three

 

There is a neat scene with the car hiding out at night lying in wait in the shadows to ambush the officers. It barrels down the dark street striking down one of them like Lee Marvin or Jack Palance in a western. For the most part the car attacks during the day. It chases a whole group of school kids into a graveyard until a teacher bravely stands up to it. When we see from the car’s point of view there is an orange filter present. This is not great filmmaking by a long shot but the effects are full of bluster and the veterans in the cast are always engaging to watch. Albert Whitlock (The Birds) did some of the effects. The car it self is a dark customized Lincoln Continental that reminded me of the Chrysler that Dean Jeffries (Star Trek) tricked up as The Black Beauty for The Green Hornet TV series. Director Elliott Silverstein did nice work with Cat Ballou (1965) and A Man Called Horse (1970) but he also did The Happening (1967) which has rightly been forgotten save for the great Supremes title song. He directed a few episodes on some acclaimed TV series and a few TV movies. The Car holds up as a fun seventies killer car film. Take it for a spin for a fun evening.

c six

Video – 2.35:1
This presentation looks quite good. Most of the film is set outside in bright sunshine. Colors and black levels are all passable. Close up, as usual reveal some of the best detail. The location and landscapes behind most of the exterior shots give a real good sense of production value to the film.

Audio – DTS-HD Stereo with subtitles offered in English

Extras – Mystery of the Car” An interview with producer/director Elliot Silverstein,
The Navajo Connection” An interview with actress Geraldine Keams, Just Like Riding a Bike – An interview with actress Melody Thomas Scott, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spot, Radio Spots, Still Gallery

It must be hard sometimes to track down interesting people who worked on these films. It had to be tough with this one in order to give us an interview with the bicycle riding girl who gets killed in the first scene. Director Elliot Silverstein spends a lot of his interview apologizing for the film. He regrets that there was no CGI to use then. He also bemoans the fact that he was forced to shoot the majority of the attacks outside in the bright daylight where he could not create any suspense. A far younger and less experienced Spielberg made his killer truck movie mostly in broad daylight and he managed to pull off quite a lot of suspenseful scenes. The one extra that is worthwhile even though the quality is poor is the great TV spot featuring the car blasting through a large picture window into someone’s kitchen.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic :

Blu-Ray – Excellent

Movie – Good