A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967)

Angie Dickinson and Lee Marvin in Point Blank
Walker: Lee Marvin
Chris: Angie Dickinson
Mal Reese: John Vernon
Lynne: Sharon Acker
Yost: Keenan Wynn
Brewster: Carroll O'Connor
Frederick Carter: Lloyd Bochner
Stegman: Michael Strong
Hit Man: James Sikking

Director: John Boorman
Screenplay: Alexander Jacobs, David Newhouse, Rafe Newhouse
Based on a novel by Donald E. Westlake (as Richard Stark)
Cinematography: Philip H. Lathrop
Art direction: Albert Brenner, George W. Davis
Music: Johnny Mandel
Film editing: Henry Berman

Stoner noir. With its non-linear storytelling and audaciously post-realist tricks of style, Point Blank clearly shows the influence of the great French and Italian filmmakers of the 1960s, but even though its director was a Brit whose only previous non-documentary film was Having a Wild Weekend (1965), an attempt to do for the Dave Clark Five what A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester, 1963) did for the Beatles, it's unquestionably an American movie. Its loner antihero, Walker, is straight out of American Westerns, and the two cities it shifts between, San Francisco and Los Angeles, are the American final frontier. That any studio, let alone MGM, would allow John Boorman and Lee Marvin to make Point Blank what it is -- an eccentric spin on a familiar genre -- shows how the Hollywood studio system had imploded. It's a film full of outrageous moments: Walker bursting into Lynne's apartment and emptying his revolver into an unoccupied bed. Walker fastening his seat belt -- in the days before shoulder belts and mandated buckling up -- and embarking on a one-car demolition derby with Stegman in the passenger seat. Walker dumping a naked Reese from a penthouse balcony. Chris pummeling an immovable Walker with her purse and her fists before collapsing in exhaustion. It has showoffy tricks: The pock pock pock pock of Walker's heels as he strides down an airport corridor, a sound that's carried over even after he's left the hallway. The often psychedelic color effects, like Chris's day-glo wardrobe or the closeup of the multicolored perfumes in the bottles that have shattered in the bathtub after Walker swept them from the shelves. Its plot stretches credibility to the breaking point: How did Walker survive being shot at, yes, point blank range and then get away from Alcatraz? This alone has served as the focus of countless attempts at interpretation: Is Walker a ghost? Or is what happens after he's shot the revenge fantasy of a dying man? In short, Point Blank is a glorious mess, made into an enduring work of fascination and puzzlement by wonderful performances, particularly by Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson. Is it a great film or just an enduring cult movie? I tend to the latter view, but it's bloody fun in either case.

Watched on Turner Classic Movies

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