Who’ll Stop The Rain is a sadly forgotten Nam era film that deftly blends genre better than most movies can ever hope to. The level of quality ratio to the amount of people who remember it is criminally unbalanced, but that’s commonplace in cinema. The title comes from the Creedence Clearwater Revival song of the same name, serving as both a metaphor in itself and a theme for the film, an anti war outcry that warbles forth beautifully at least five different times during the movie, becoming the script’s national anthem. Plus,who can say no to CCR on loop. It’s actually one of the best and most fervent anti war films out there, showing you an extended look at just how many ways the Vietnam War followed soldiers home and infected many customs, institutions and individuals. That kind of important sentiment wrapped up in a thriller is the kind of package I strive to find in film, and this is a glowing example. Nick Nolte plays Ray Hicks, an american GI getting ready to head back stateside after a tour. His best buddy John Converse (Michael Moriarty) convinces him to smuggle a brick of hash back with him and deliver it to his wife (Tuesday Weld). Only problem is, that ain’t where it ends. The people John was in contact with turn out to be a dodgy bunch, and before Ray knows it he’s o the run from some very dangerous dudes with his best buddy’s wife in tow, headed straight for a violent confrontation via a slow burn of a plot that sits on a low boil before you realized it’s reached a fever pitch. Nolte and Weld are a corrosive romantic couple, making the downbeat best of their situation, evading two nasty drug runners (Anthony Zerbe and Richard Masur being scary and classy as fuck) and getting a feel for each other along the way. Thriller. Drama. War. Moral dilemma. This one’s got it all, in a very specific concoction that never forces anything and treats you to more than it ever promised, before you have the chance to realize it. All timer stuff.
We covered Michael Mann’s 1981 neo noir Chicago crime film, THIEF, that starred James Caan, Tuesday Weld, James Belushi, Dennis Farina, and Willie Nelson. We’re joined with Frank’s former film professor, Francine Sanders, who teaches classes at Columbia College of Chicago. Frank took her Studies of the Films of the 1970’s. Francine teaches film courses at Oakton Community College’s Emeritus Program, and has served on the faculty of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy and Roosevelt University. Not only is she a published and awarded writer, but she worked for the Chicago Police Department for eight and half years as a civilian investigator for the Office of Professional Standards and helped uncover police torture and corruption under Chicago Police Department’s former Cmdr. Jon Burge. Francine is a key component for Frank’s love of film, and there wouldn’t be a Podcasting Them Softy (at least from Frank’s end) without her!
With Thief, Michael Mann distilled his crime film style into an archetypal, haunting aura that would go on to influence not only his excellent later work, but other filmmakers as well, everything from Refn’s Drive to the police procedural we see on television today. A style that consists of kaleidoscope neon reflections in rain slicked streets, Chrome cars bulleting through restless urban nocturnes and a lyrical, pulsating score, here provided by underrated German electronic maestros Tangerine Dream, who would go on to provide their dulcet tones for Mann’s phenomenal 1983 The Keep. Thief weaves the age old tale of a master safe cracker(James Caan in a beautifully understated performance) the high stakes at risk of him performing one last job to escape, with said stakes represented as his angelic wife (Tuesday Weld) and newborn son. Robert Prosky in his film debut is a serpentine wonder as Leo, Caan’s boss, whose chilling metamorphosis from paternal employer to domineering monster is a joy to watch. The jewel heist scenes are shot with a researched, assured and authentic feel, spurred on by Tangerine Dreams cosmic rhythms and are especially dynamic points of the film. Thief, for me, belongs that special subcategory of Mann’s career along with Heat, Miami Vice and Collateral, (Public Enemies doesn’t get to come in this elite cinematic treehouse club, it didn’t do anything for me) that are very special crime films. They possess an intangible, ethereal quality of colour, metal, music, and shady people moving about a thrumming urban dreamscape, professionals at what they do, cogs in the ticking clock of crime that inexorably drives toward the narrative outcome, be it bitter confrontation and violence (of which Thief has an absolute gorgeous, poetic revenge sequence) or cathartic resolution (like the conventionally satisfying way Collateral ends). Mann has captured neon lightning in a bottle with Thief, and against the odds of people saying you can’t catch lightning twice, he has spark plugged a good portion of his career with that same lightning, creating an artistic aesthetic all his own. To me that is the ultimate outcome of filmmaking, and art as a medium.