Tag Archives: Clint Eastwood

Lunch with Immortan Joe by Kent Hill

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Dolly Parton once said, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” I like to muse that this was going through the mind of my distinguished guest and Ozploitation luminary, Hugh Keays-Byrne. And my reason behind this thinking – even though, for all intents and purposes, the characters he has brought to our screens for decades have been seen as pure, cold-hearted villains – turns out, we’ve all been wrong.

Toad (Stone), William Whopper (Secret Valley), Toecutter (Mad Max), and the divine one, all shiny and chrome, Immortan Joe (Mad Max: Fury Road) are not the boogeymen society would have you believe. No folks, they are progressives, forward-thinkers. They see the big picture, they are thinking about future generations, not the pesky problems of the current cloud of mayhem.

But let’s face it people – bad dudes are more fun. And our Hugh is one of cinema history’s ultimate bad (though secretly underappreciated visionary with people’s best interests in mind) dude. Born the same year, in fact two days before my Dad, in India, Hugh returned the homeland of his parents, England, where he not only completed his education but also found his way into The Royal Shakespeare Company, and it was in one of their productions that he found his way here, to the great southern land – and here he stayed.

Continuing as he had also been in Britain, prior to his Shakespearean exodus, he appeared on local television productions till along came the ultimate auteur-ozploitation picture in the form of Sandy Harbutt’s STONE. Keays-Byrne would transform into the iconic Toad. But ladies and boys, this filmography is a little bit like a classic rock radio station, because the hits, just keep on coming. He shared a cab ride and a request for narcotics with the Easy Rider, he’s tasted THE BLOOD OF HEROES (while saluting the Juggers), he’s shared the landscape with FARSCAPE and very nearly was the Martian Manhunter for Dr. George’s Justice League. Sure, sure. It might have been groovy. But he will be remembered in the halls of Valhalla as the electrifying good guy of Miller’s indelible imprint on the art of the motion picture when he became the Toecutter in a little movie headlined by a guy named Mel.

Recently, Mad Max: Fury Road has back in popular discussion. It is topping lists as one, if not the penultimate action film OF ALL TIME! That’s right, I said ALL TIME. Now – these may be mere lists on the internet – no shortage of those right – but truth be told, Miller literally, all these years after THE ROAD WARRIOR  (or Mad Max 2, as we like to call it), has reignited the same fire that he started way back when. Fury Road is as much a cultural monolith as it is action-film opus.

It has been a long time between lunches here in my little corner of cinematic nirvana. Last time I had lunch it was with The Equalizer himself, (and another Aussie cinema legend) Richard Norton. So, it is with great pride that I get to enjoy another lunch break with you dear PTS listeners – lunch with the merciful and compassionate Immortan Joe…

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OH WHAT A DAY, WHAT A LOVELY DAY!!!

 

 

 

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Clint Eastwood’s The Eiger Sanction

Clint Eastwood tries to do both Indiana Jones and 007 in The Eiger Sanction, a gorgeous production with incredible photography and stunt work that unfortunately is about half an hour two long, and would have greatly benefited from being a sleek ninety minute thing instead of being drawn out over a full two hours to the point where we wonder if some of the extended scenes of dialogue will end and if we’ll ever get to actually see the Eiger. Eastwood is Hemlock, a soft spoken liberal arts professor who just happens to also be a retired assassin super spy in hiding. His old organization, spearheaded by a creepy albino pseudo-bond villain (Thayer David), tracks him down and blackmails him into getting back to work, in particular climbing the infamous mountain in Switzerland to kill a target that ran up there… or something. This involves a long interlude in Monument Valley where an old buddy (George Kennedy, a study in gregarious exuberance) trains him up and an old enemy (Jack Cassidy, a study in the kind of characterization that would get a film boycotted these days lol) stirs up trouble. Then it’s off to Switzerland for an extended climbing sequence and an eventual showdown high atop snowy peaks. If this all sounds terrifically exciting… it isn’t. Eastwood shows a sure hand in directing elsewhere in his career but here the fight scenes are clumsy, cartoonish affairs, the dialogue is oddly conceived (Cassidy’s character has a dog whose name I won’t repeat here because I’m sure some lame brain would report my post) and the editing is loose and unrestrained, creating pacing that has you looking around the room for more interesting things to focus on. Still, the stunts (all done by Eastwood for real) are breathtaking, especially an ascent of one of those huge rock pillars that stand so formidably in the desert. The cinematography once the action switches to Switzerland is unbelievable but the place is so beautiful anyone could point a camera around and get gold. The climbing is all incredibly staged stuff and often suspenseful, but in terms of plot, character and cohesion it just falls apart though, sadly. I’ll always love it because my dad did, he was in the same Swiss town during filming and always talked about meeting the cast and crew. But yeah, from an objective critical standpoint, not the best Eastwood flick out there.

-Nate Hill

Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

How iconic has the image become of Clint Eastwood, poncho adorned, rolled cigarette locked firmly in that drawn snarl, peering out from a wide brim, dust caked hat atop a horse? The Man With No Name is such a household name these days that he’s shown up everywhere from Stephen King lore to an animated Johnny Depp movie, but it all began with Sergio Leone’s original spaghetti western trilogy, the best of which is the fireball classic The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

The trilogy itself not only launched an entire sub-genre in the early sixties but created a mood, a feel that no one besides Leone has ever been able to so specifically distill. Extreme closeups on eyes deep set in furrowing brows. Languid establishing shots of frontier town streets, expansive railroads and acres of dry brush-lands. The actors aren’t necessarily blocked from scene to scene with any kind of briskness but rather wade languidly through an ambient space seemingly at their own leisure and never with haste. Spaghetti westerns are never about the plot, but about the moment, the setup, the apprehension in the saloon, grotto, civil war torn graveyard or desert that these hard bitten folks find themselves in.

Eastwood’s nameless gunslinger meanders across a bitter, busted up American west that is, of course, actually Italy, engaging in war games and an obsessive treasure hunt with two other pieces of work, the sociopathic monster Angel Eyes (Lee Can Cleef) and the lecherous, untrustworthy rodent Tuco (Eli Wallach). All three are after a legendary gold stash somewhere out there in the desolation and are prepared to kill anyone who stands in their way, bonus points for each other. Eastwood is cold, calm and opaque, Cleef is cheerfully, sadistically ruthless, Wallach oozes weaselly survival instinct and together they make a captivating trio.

Three scenes in particular stand out in my mind; the first is the epic showdown between them all, stood a few hundred paces apart in a triangle, locked in a tense pre shootout stare-down as Ennio Morricone’s gorgeous and threatening score booms around the landscape and plays with expectations wonderfully. It’s a kicker of a scene and probably the showcase Western showdown in cinema. The second (and I’m assuming at this point that anyone who’s read this far has seen the film) is the final sequence where Eastwood taunts Wallach by literally leaving him hanging and riding away as Morricone yet again gives our eardrums symphonic bliss. It’s a wicked little epilogue that illustrates the character’s dry, subtle sense of humour nicely and I remember my dad (this was a favourite for him) rewinding it just to catch the beats a second or third time. The third is a moment where Eastwood comes across a soldier who is dying in the dust. He offers the man a drag off his cigarette, and the simple action suggests a beating heart and flickers of compassion in a mostly hard, stoic fellow. Nice touch.

-Nate Hill

Kelly’s Heroes

Among the multitude of heavy, doom laden war films that Hollywood has produced, its always nice to find a more lighthearted one like Kelley’s Heroes, an old Clint Eastwood vehicle that plays like Ocean’s Eleven during the fog of WWII, a peppy heist flick that has always been an old favourite of mine and features a specifically chosen, idiosyncratic cast of perennial old school tough guys. Eastwood leads a ragtag platoon of renegade allies through torn up France, and as soon as they get wind of a potential stash of ample nazi bullion somewhere in the region, their course turns in favour of the biggest payday of their lives. That’s pretty much all there is in terms of plot, but with a group this charismatic there’s never any downtime or boredom. Telly Savalas fills in the second in command tough guy role, Don Rickles inhabits his uniform like a little gold hungry gremlin as their explosives expert, but it’s Donald Sutherland who really steals the show as Oddball, a hippie who lives up to his name and serves to personify the film’s reckless, cheerful anti-establishment persona. Eastwood has fun with the material, letting a knowing grin sneak through that stoic visage, it’s an awesome rebel leader role for him and he clearly has a blast. There’s battles, chases, shootouts and it all culminates with a spectacular showdown in a small French village, in whose bank the gold is stashed. Two German tiger tanks stand guard, Kelly & Co. slowly trundle through the village and up to the doorstep, an apprehensive silence fills the air and it’s the perfect calm before the storm setup for the warfare to follow, almost like something Sergio Leone dreamed up. This plays like The Dirty Dozen on a lazy Sunday, violent but not too gritty, fast paced but never too kinetic, funny but never outright parody, it’s one of the best in Eastwood’s canon and a solid war flick. I enjoyed the recurring song ‘Burning Bridges’ by Mike Curb Congregation, a breezy tune that serves to remind us that although this is set during wartime, we’re here to relax and have fun.

-Nate Hill

Wolfgang Petersen’s In The Line Of Fire

Wolfgang Petersen’s In The Line Of Fire is as solid as action pictures get, a three course thriller meal, and one of my favourite Clint Eastwood flicks. Starting to show his age here and adopting a brittle, calcified hardness, he plays disgraced secret service agent Frank Horrigan, a quiet, resolute man who is haunted by his failure to protect Kennedy from that infamous bullet. He’s on undercover sting operations with his rookie partner (Dylan McDermott) these days, and is battling some health issues that go hand in hand with getting up there in years. No better time for predatory, mercurial ex CIA assassin Mitch Leary (a terrifying John Malkovich) to taunt him out of retirement with threats against the new president, up for election. Leary is a cunning psychopath who won’t go down so easy, and Frank is just the determined wolfhound to take him down, as a dangerous, violently suspenseful game of cat and mouse plays out. There’s an obligatory female love interest too, but the film shirks the usual ditzy throwaway chick and goes for something classier in Rene Russo, a capable senior agent who initially roasts Frank for his age before eventually warming up. Russo is an unconventionally attractive, intuitively engaging actress whose subtly likeable nature sneaks up on you and the muted chemistry she has with Eastwood is terrific. The three excellent leads are surrounded by a nebulae of awesome supporting players including John Mahoney, the always solid Gary Cole, Fred Dalton Thompson, a sleazy Tobin Bell and scene stealing character actor Steve Railsback in a brilliant cameo as Leary’s shady former Agency handler. Subtlety has never been Petersen’s forte, but his approach works here as he tells the story in big, bold strokes that highlight each set piece with sterling suspense. There’s also a brooding score by the master himself, Ennio Morricone, which takes the solemn, scary route instead of blaring up the Zimmer-esque fireworks. As great as the action is here (that plastic 3D printed gun though), my favourite scenes are the creepy late night phone calls that Malkovich makes to Eastwood, teasing him but also betraying notes of loneliness in his perverted psyche. This is a battle of wills before it even gets physical, and the two heavyweights spar off of each other with calculated portent and restrained, fascinated loathing. A thriller classic.

-Nate Hill

Dirty Harry: The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool is a a slick entry in the Dirty Harry franchise, also capping off the series as the fifth and last one. Clint Eastwood had come a long way since he first stepped into the shoes of no nonsense, persistently violent San Francisco super cop Harry Callahan to do battle with the Zodiac Killer, and in this one things get a little bit more meta and witty than they ever have in the canon, but none less violent or tough. After the murder of a junkie rockstar played by none other than a young Jim Carrey, San Francisco is on high alert after the discovery of an underground game called the dead pool, where people bet on celebrities to die (I myself have never engaged in such behaviour). The chief suspect is an asshole horror film director played by Liam Neeson, sporting a greasy ponytail to match his greasy attitude, but each clue seems to lead nowhere, and Harry keeps getting attacked by unseen assassins from both the mob and the killer’s arena. The fun in these flicks is observing his zero tolerance policy for bureaucracy, red tape or rules and the flagrant defiance in the face of any social niceties, not to mention his enthusiasm for cheerfully excessive force, behaviour that has made him such a beloved character. The 44. Magnum gets a ton of exercise here and before the opening credits are nearly up he’s already blasted holes in like six people. My favourite scene has to be the unique car chase action sequence in which the killer employs a tiny, bizarrely fast remote control car rigged with a bomb and chases Harry all up and down the famous hills of San Francisco, it’s absolutely hysterical and looks as if a family of Borrowers decided that they needed to wiped out Clint Eastwood and are hunting the poor guy down. Eastwood is a little older and a bit more grizzled here, and his hair has the refreshing metamorphosis aesthetic of the late 80’s emerging from the dust of 70’s poof/mullet nightmares (also observable with Nick Nolte between 48Hrs and Another 48Hrs), which adds to the character. Good stuff.

-Nate Hill

Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet

I love scrappy little cop flicks like Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet, a short, trashy exercise in exploitation that’s not only a departure from the heady, cerebral detective flicks he does but also miles off of the focused, gritty machismo of the Dirty Harry films. This is a low rent B movie and is proud of it, which is a rare commodity in Eastwood land. Boasting a terminally silly plot, lovably incapable protagonist and more bullets fired than all three Matrix movies stacked together, it’s a great way to spend a Saturday night when you have a hankering for old school action. Eastwood is Ben Shockley here, a disheveled mess of a Phoenix cop, heavily on the sauce and in no mood for the mission his uptight commissioner (William Prince, needing a moustache to twirl in his portrait of unapologetic evil) dispatches him on. He’s to escort a troublesome hooker (Sondra Locke) from Vegas back to Arizona where she will testify at a high profile mob trial. Of course every bent cop and his mother is on their trail, they can’t trust anyone in law enforcement and they’re on their own, forced to run a gauntlet of gunfire and corruption to bring her in. There’s three very odd, very hilarious set pieces that involve gunmen just fucking unloading clip after clip after clip in a way that the you might see on the Looney Toons, until the house they’re firing at *literally* falls apart. That’s the sort of slapdash style the film has, but it works in its dense specificity. Eastwood and Locke have chemistry, and it’s always cool to see the chicks in his action films have their own personality and impact on plot, not just part of the scenery or eye candy. Prince is so nefarious as the Commissioner that one wonders how a man like that ascended the ranks to that position, but in a film where’s he’s allowed to shut down a city block and order the *entire* Phoenix police force to empty boxes of bullets into an oncoming bus that Eastwood rolls up in, it isn’t that much of a stretch to believe. It’s just that kind of film, and I dug it a lot. Oh and look at that epic one sheet of a poster, whoever designed that should get a few medals. Great flick.

-Nate Hill