Royal Flush: THE CINCINNATI KID (MGM 1965)


cracked rear viewer

There are movies about the high-stakes world of poker, and then there’s THE CINCINNATI KID. This gripping look at backroom gambling has long been a favorite of mine because of the high-powered all-star cast led by two acting icons from two separate generations – “The Epitome of Cool” Steve McQueen and “Original Gangster” Edward G. Robinson . The film was a breakthrough for director Norman Jewison, who went after this from lightweight fluff like 40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE and SEND ME NO FLOWERS to weightier material like IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR.

The film revolves around a poker showdown between up and coming young stud Eric Stoner, known as The Kid, and veteran Lancey Howard, venerated in card playing circles as The Man. This theme of young tyro vs old pro wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, having been hashed and rehashed in countless Westerns over the…

View original post 564 more words

Film Review: Payday (dir by Daryl Duke)


First released way back in 1972, Payday tells the story of Maury Dann (played by the late, great Texas actor, Rip Torn).

Maury is a country singer.  He sings songs about wholesome values and good country girls.  His music isn’t exactly ground-breaking but his fans still love him and it’s easy to see why.  The movie opens with Maury performing in a small, country club and his charisma is undeniable.  He has a good singing voice and he easily dominates the stage.  Between songs, he flashes a friendly but slightly mischievous smile.  After his performance, he is perfectly charming when he meets his older fans.  And, when he meets a younger fan, he takes her outside and has sex with her in the backseat of his Cadillac.  He does this while her boyfriend is wandering around the parking lot looking for her.

Maury is a man who is in control when he’s on stage.  However, when he’s off-stage, the real Muary comes out.  When he’s not singing and basking in the applause of his fans, Maury is …. well, he’s a total mess.  Actually, mess doesn’t quite do justice to just how screwed up Maury Dann is.  He cheats on his girlfriend.  He pops pills constantly.  He treats the members of his band with a casual cruelty.  When Maury’s off-stage, that charming smile changes into a rather demented smirk.  Just when you think Maury’s done the worst possible thing that he could do, he does something even worse.

Payday follows Maury as he is driven through the South, singing songs and ruining lives.  Along the way, he gets into a fight with his mother and then a fight with his ex-wife and eventually, a fight with the boyfriend of that younger fan from the start of the movie.  We watch as Maury drinks, bribes DJs, and frames his employees for all sorts of crimes.  It’s an episodic film about a man who seems to understand that he’s destined to self-destruct no matter what he does.

Payday is very much a film of the early 70s.  Though the film may be about a self-destructive country star, it’s hard not to suspect that — as with most of the films from that era — Maury and his adventures were meant to be a metaphor for America itself.  Country Western is a uniquely American genre and by showcasing the damage that Maury does to everyone around him, the film seems to be suggesting that Maury’s sins are also America’s sins.  The people who idolize Maury and make him a star despite all of his flaws are the same people who reelected Richard Nixon and supported sending young men to die in Vietnam.

It’s all a bit much for one film to carry on its shoulders and spending two hours with Maury Dann is not exactly a pleasant experience but the film works because of the performance of Rip Torn.  When Torn died earlier this week, there was a lot of discussion about which performance was his best.  Quite a few people on twitter cited his roles in Defending Your Life and The Larry Sanders Show.  I personally mentioned The Man Who Fell To Earth and Maidstone.  But if you really want to see what made Rip Torn such a great actor, you simply must watch Payday.  Maury is a jerk with little in the way of redeeming qualities but Torn gives such a fearless and cheerfully demented performance that it’s impossible not to get caught up in his story.  As much as you want to look away, you can’t because Rip Torn keeps you so off-balance that you cannot stop watching.  Torn is smart enough to play Maury with just enough self-awareness that the character becomes fascinatingly corrupt as opposed to just being a self-centered jerk.

Finally, Payday simply feels authentic.  The film was made way before my time but I’m a Southern girl who has spent enough time in the country to know that the backroads of rural America haven’t changed that much over the past few decades.  At times, while watching Payday, I felt like I was back on my granduncle’s farm in Arkansas, walking through high grass and listening to the cicadas while watching the sun go down.

Payday is definitely a film that’s worth the trouble to track down.  Watch it and appreciate the fearless genius of the great Rip Torn.

A (Not-So) Brief Note On WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT (20th Century Fox 2004)


cracked rear viewer

Sometimes while scrolling through the channels one come across a pleasant surprise. So it’s Saturday afternoon,a thundershower has cancelled my plan to hit the beach, the Red Sox don’t start for awhile, and I’m clicking the old clicker when I land on WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT. I wasn’t expecting much, just a way to kill time; instead, I found an underrated little gem of a comedy that kept me watching until the very end.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT is an undiscovered classic or anything like that. It’s just a solidly made piece of entertainment about small-town life starring Ray Romano (riding high at the time thanks to his successful sitcom EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND) and Oscar winning Gene Hackman. Romano uses his nebbishy TV persona to portray Mooseport, Maine’s local hardware store owner “Handy” Harrison, who gets involved in a mayoral campaign against Hackman’s Monroe “Eagle”…

View original post 438 more words

A Movie A Day #317: Flashpoint (1984, directed by William Tannen)


November 22, 1963.  While the rest of the world deals with the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, a man named Michael Curtis drives a jeep across the South Texas desert, heading for the border.  In the jeep, he has a $800,000 and a high-powered rifle.  When the jeep crashes, the man, the rifle, and the money are left undiscovered in the desert for 21 years.

1984.  Two border patrol agents, Logan (Kris Kristofferson) and Wyatt (Treat Williams), are complaining about their job and hoping for a better life.  It looks like they might get that opportunity when they come across both the jeep and the money.  A bitter Vietnam vet, Logan wants to take the money and run but Wyatt is more cautious.  Shortly after Wyatt runs a check on the jeep’s license plate, a FBI agent (Kurtwood Smith) shows up at the station and both Logan and Wyatt discover their lives are in danger.

Though it was made seven years before Oliver Stone’s JFK, Flashpoint makes the same argument, that Kennedy was killed as the result of a massive government conspiracy and that the conspirators are still in power and doing whatever they have to do keep the truth from being discovered.  The difference is that Flashpoint doesn’t try to convince anyone.  If you’re watching because you’re hoping to see a serious examination of the Kennedy conspiracy theories, Flashpoint is not for you.  Instead, Flashpoint is a simple but effective action film, a modern western that uses the assassination as a MacGuffin.  Though Kris Kristofferson has never been the most expressive of actors, he was well-cast as the archetypical gunslinger with a past.  Rip Torn also gives a good performance as a morally ambiguous sheriff and fans of great character acting will want to keep an eye out for both Kevin Conway and Miguel Ferrer in small roles.

That’s Blaxploitation! 11: Jim Brown in SLAUGHTER (AIP 1972)


cracked rear viewer

Jim Brown  is one bad mother… no wait, that’s Richard Roundtree as Shaft! Jim Brown is one bad dude as SLAUGHTER, a 1972 Blaxploitation revenge yarn chock full of action. Brown’s imposing physical presence dominates the film, and he doesn’t have to do much in the acting department, ’cause Shakespeare this ain’t – it’s a balls to the wall, slam-bang flick courtesy of action specialist Jack Starrett (RUN ANGEL RUN, CLEOPATRA JONES , RACE WITH THE DEVIL) that doesn’t let up until the last second, resulting in one of the genre’s best.

Ex-Green Beret Slaughter (no first name given) is determined to get the bad guys who blew up his dad’s car, with dad in it! Seems dear ol’ dad was mob connected and knew too much. Slaughter’s reckless abandon in seeking revenge lands him in hot water with Treasury agents, and he’s “persuaded” to assist them in taking down…

View original post 339 more words

Horror on TV: Thriller 1.7 “The Purple Room” (dir by Douglas Heyes)


For tonight’s televised horror, we have The Purple Room, an episode of Thriller!  This was an anthology series, which was hosted by Boris Karloff.  Admittedly, Thriller was not always a horror show.  Several of the episodes were crime stories that had a diabolical twist.  But anything hosted by Boris Karloff is perfect for October viewing.

The Purple Room is the story of what happens when a skeptic (played by a young Rip Torn) learns that he must spend a year living in a house that may or may not be haunted.  This episode is enjoyably creepy and, of course, it has a twist.

This episode originally aired on October 25th, 1960.

A Movie A Day #156: Slaughter (1972, directed by Jack Starrett)


The Mafia just pissed off the wrong ex-Green Beret.

After his father is blown up by a car bomb, Captain Slaughter (Jim Brown) single handily wipes out the Cleveland mob.  Only one gangster, Dominic Hoffo (Rip Torn), escapes to South America.  The Treasury Department (represented by Cameron Mitchell) sends Slaughter and two other agents (Don Gordon and Marlene Clark) after Hoffo.  Along with being a ruthless gangster, Hoffo is a viscous racist and is convinced that he will be able to easily take care of Slaughter.  Hoffo does not understand how much trouble he’s in.  No one stops Slaughter.

Produced by American International Pictures, Slaughter is one of the classic blaxploitation films. While it may not have the political subtext of some of the best blaxploitation films, Slaughter is a fast and mean action film, directed in a no nonsense manner by B-movie veteran Jack Starrett.  There is not a wasted moment to be found in Slaughter.  It starts and ends with cars exploding and, in between, it doesn’t even stop to catch its breath.

In the 1970s, Richard Roundtree was John Shaft, Ron O’Neal was Superfly, Jim Kelly was Black Belt Jones, Fred Williamson was Black Caesar, and Jim Brown was Slaughter.  Whatever skills Jim Brown lacked as an actor, he made up for with sheer presence.  He commanded the screen.  Whether he was playing football on television or beating down the Mafia in the movies, no one could stop Jim Brown.  Slaughter is Brown at his toughest.  Rip Torn is the perfect villain, screaming out racial slurs even when Slaughter has him trapped in an overturned car.   Jim Brown has said that, of all the films he has made, Slaughter is one of his three favorites.  (The other two were The Dirty Dozen and Mars Attacks!)

Slaughter‘s cool factor is increased by the presence of Stella Stevens, playing the role of Ann, Hoffo’s mistress.  It only takes one night with Slaughter for Ann to switch sides.  Nothing stops Slaughter.