Hell Is For Heroes (1962 USA)

Steve McQueen was striving to make it big in Hollywood and used the force of his ego to position himself as the star here. This didn’t endear him to the picture’s original director Robert Pirosh, who also wrote the screenplay. McQueen’s insistence on rewriting scenes and placing himself in the center of the action spoiled Piroff’s vision of a fighting unit that worked together with no single individual standing out. McQueen got Pirosh fired, and Don Siegel was hired with McQueen’s approval to take over. Siegel knew how to stroke McQueen’s fragile psyche, and in some cases, simply agreed to some of McQueen’s suggestions then did his own thing. If you keep a close eye on Private Reese (McQueen), this sense of embittered self confidence pervades his character throughout the story. He’s right even when he’s wrong. [Read more…]

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The Sand Pebbles (1966 USA)

(There are many silly hat moments in The Sand Pebbles)

In 1911 China overthrew the Manchu dynasty, which in its weakened state, over the last century had sold off parcels of real estate outright controlled by European powers and later by Japan as well. The United States controlled no territory outright as other powers did, but the Americans did insist on extraterritoriality involving their citizens doing business there. What that meant was that US citizens were not subject to Chinese laws, civil or criminal. Matters involving them went to American courts. Other powers had those same treaties. That was resented. Westerners were resented. Japanese were resented most of all because they were fellow Asians doing it to the Chinese but this tale is only concerned with Americans. [Read more…]

The Blob (1958 USA)

Hardly substantial enough to be a guilty pleasure, let alone a cult film: a giant quivering mound of raspberry (or is it blackcurrant?) jelly chasing – and often catching – fleeing, highly respectable teenagers on a weekend night. From the moment we hear Burt Bacharach’s opening theme song “Beware of the Blob!” we know we’re in for a good, solid, campy light hearted fun. Refreshingly free of any scientific investigation/jargon. I like to watch this stuff for historical reasons: the 50’s cars, teens in high collar shirts and high pants, crime-free suburbia, Polio posters, proper girls, crooked teeth, chess games, super friendly cops… [Read more…]

The Great Escape (1963 USA)

greatescape6-061315By 1963 audiences were becoming bored with re-living heroic World War Two exploits, Teenage filmgoers were too young to remember it and were tired of seeing their dads’ er…’doings’, (yuck! – sorry) which made their own lives feel smaller & duller. But “The Great Escape” depicted a failed breakout from an inglorious captivity. It managed to combine the expected set pieces of tension and ‘doings’ (yuck again!) with an incipient 60’s individualism. [Read more…]

The Getaway (1972 USA)

getaway72sm-cl1b-jktSick and tired of new releases I can’t get through 45 minutes of, I went back to this classic. What a breath of fresh air this heist/chase film turned out to be. At two hours and three minutes, it’s remarkably well paced and tension filled – it never falters. One of the many things that gives 1972’s The Getaway the edge over its now almost-forgotten 1994 remake is that, unlike Alec Baldwin, Steve McQueen doesn’t act like a movie star – he is a movie star. From the days when cool was what you were, not what you wore or owned. [Read more…]

The Cincinnanati Kid (1965 USA)

cincigray-cl1-jktcu“To be the man, you got to beat the man.” You can learn so much from this shameless audience pleaser. Like how to make the wrong move at the right time. Poker can be a fascinating ‘holy’ game, and it therefore makes a strong base for a film. How could this not be great entertainment? Particularly with the big guns Hollywood has on display here: Steve McQueen, Ann-Margret, Edward G Robinson, Rip Torn etc. Plus a soulfully tense theme song belted out by Ray Charles. Its a winning hand. You just gotta know how to hold em & fold em. [Read more…]

Steve McQueen – Tales Of A Lurid Life (Darwin Porter)

Darwin PorterSo Steve was a Queen. According to notorious biographer, Darwin Porter. There is more gay sex contained in these pages than even George Michael could handle. I needed asbestos gloves to protect myself from the social diseases leaping off the text. The author is one sick bastard. He lives with cats in a New York city apartment. Of course he would. It’s ridiculous semi-fiction, with personal conversations somehow “recorded” and enough smutty talk to fill a swamp. I was laughing every other paragraph or so from the way this writer lays out each scene for us. This is like two schoolgirls gossiping behind the bike sheds. Man, this dude Porter must have been a very busy fly on many walls. Where is a swat when you need one?!
[Read more…]

BULLITT (1968 United States)

8767The first lone-wolf cop story plays by the rules of the genre it spawned, featuring a charismatic, outsider type who carries a badge and an attitude directed as much against the egos and hubris of his superiors as against the criminal element. [Read more…]

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