Dirty Harry [1971)

Cops get a bad rap.  It’s only fitting that Kinney National Company, by way of their 1969 purchase of Warner Bros.-Seven Arts film company, should bring you this message.  Kinney National Services, Inc. was the product of a 1966 merger between Kinney Parking (as in, parking lots) Company and National Cleaning Company.  The former, a New Jersey operation, was owned by three gentlemen…at least one of which was a mobster:  Abner Zwillman.  But wait, it gets richer…

Before Kinney Parking Company was publicly listed in 1960, it merged with the funeral home (!) company Riverside.

Ah yes…Abner Zwillman.  Newark.  Cut numbers…  Tosches.

Zwillman did alright for himself…  Dated Jean Harlow…

Along with Al Capone, Zwillman controlled the movie projectionist union.  Histoire(s) du cinema.

Funny that an extortionist should start a company which would eventually make a film about an extortionist.

Zwillman died an untimely death by hanging…just before he was to appear before a U.S. Senate committee organized crime hearing. 1959.

Another chthonic founder of Kinney Parking Company was Manny (Emmanuel) Kimmel.  Keep in mind, folks–this developed into Time Warner!  Yeah.

Along with the racketeer/bootlegger Zwillman, Kimmel used his garages to store the liquor which the former was smuggling into the U.S. from Canada in armored WW I trucks during Prohibition.  The FBI “compelled” him to testify in two notable mafia trials (including Zwillman’s).

Kimmel…legendary New York horseracing bookie, blackjack card-counter, “compelled” witness.

Kimmel and Zwillman (to say nothing of Sigmund Dornbusch) circuitously brought you the film Dirty Harry.  Oh, the irony!

And thus it starts:  perhaps the most quintessential American movie.  No, dear friends, you cannot watch this with commercial interruptions on AMC…no way.

And TCM has been slow to “get it”…though their screening format is superior.

Don Siegel hits a vein–a gusher–with this one!

From that first rifle scope focus…that first glamorous victim…that icy blue summer swimming pool atop the roof suddenly tinged with blood…

We could have mentioned Vito Genovese.  Meyer Lansky.  Bugsy Siegel…

But we will focus on the immensely talented Don Siegel.

In Don Siegel we encounter the difference between American montage and French montage:  not at all the same thing.

We find Peckinpah as an assistant.

Friends…

Hell, Siegel even directed Baby Face Nelson in 1957 (a couple years before Zwillman was suicided).

But the big story?  The big scoop???  Clint Eastwood.

Eastwood was born in San Francisco (the setting of Dirty Harry).  11 pounds and 6 ounces.

The mid-60s were good to Eastwood…three spaghetti westerns helmed by Sergio Leone with Clint in the lead.  All three were financial successes…low-budget and high box office return.

By 1971 Eastwood had just completed his directorial debut:  Play Misty for Me.

But let’s not forget the Finks who wrote Dirty Harry’s script:  Harry Julian Fink and R.M. Fink!

The Finks were joined by Dean Riesner and John Milius.

Now they just needed a villain.  A mashup of the Zodiac Killer and actor Andy Robinson provided just the right level of disgust for audiences to swallow the vigilante Harry Callahan.

Yeah, a butcher knife and a hard-on is probably probable cause…though D.A. Rothko would likely disagree.

The Smith & Wesson Model 29…we’re talking about a handgun that approaches three pounds (depending on barrel length).

I know what you’re thinking.  Did he just put two unrelated phrases ass-to-ass on purpose or on accident?

Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself.

Scorpio…

Signed crosshairs.  Benicia.  Vallejo.  Lake Berryessa.  Presidio Heights.

This was real.

Well, Harry’s usual hot dogs had not kept him in the greatest cardio shape, though he admirably runs from payphone to payphone.  It’s a pretty ingenious plot device.  The thrilling uncertainty would do Hitchcock proud.  Yes, Hitch would direct two more films after Harry Callahan hit the world’s stage.  One can’t help wondering if he saw this masterpiece.

When Eastwood stabs Scorpio in the leg…that is cinema.  It’s not far from the iconography of Kubrick’s The Shining or Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (though it predates both).

When Eastwood steps into the arena (sand) of Kezar Stadium, we know there will be blood.  Would you torture a psychopath to save an innocent teenage girl?  These are the types of questions which came to dominate Clint Eastwood’s amazing career.

Even smalltime shits like Scorpio understand the concept of the good old false flag, but it doesn’t work.

And then like Superman with no name…sun at his back on the railroad trestle…Eastwood hops the short bus.

“But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

It’s too long to be a haiku, but it floats…

-PD

The Man with the Golden Gun [1974)

Third nipple.  It had to be said.  Nay, not even the great Roger Moore could get away with a strictly biological description.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…  Indeed, Scaramanga was the most interesting and well-rounded villain yet in this series (by far).  This is Guy Hamilton’s directorial masterpiece.  Any who look down upon action/adventure movies are missing the fun of life.  C’est la vie.  It is an honor to write about a living legend–a true auteur.  I salute you Monsieur Hamilton!

Sure…there are some funny bits.  Coal and oil would soon run out?  Well, 40 years have gone by and we are still burning away.  But let us not dwell upon a minor hitch.  This film is so enjoyable to watch!

The location shoots are immaculate.  Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand…  I must admit I got a bit wistful hearing traditional Thai music (something I was lucky enough to study at university).  Hamilton pushes all the right buttons (rather the opposite of Miss Goodnight’s errant derriere).

I would dare say this is the best Bond film up to this point in the “canon”…without question!

It is not a matter of Connery vs. Moore, but rather of Hamilton vs. cinema.  There were great moments earlier in the series, but this really is the whole package.  It’s a shame Connery and Hamilton didn’t get the opportunity to hit on all cylinders as Moore and Hamilton did with this vehicle.

Bond takes one for the team early on by swallowing a piece of forensic evidence:  a golden bullet which had become the erstwhile navel ornament of a belly-dancer in Beirut.  Not long after we are introduced to an indispensable character:  Nick Nack.  Yes, that’s right…Tatoo from Fantasy Island, but officially the late Hervé Villechaize.  The MI6 base aboard the wreckage of the RMS Queen Elizabeth was a brilliant touch.  Special notice should go to Joie Vejjajiva and Qiu Yuen who are masterfully cute and pugnacious as Hip’s nieces.

There is certainly a hesitant feminism which asserts itself from time to time.  It is rather awkward in such a chauvinistic series, but welcome nonetheless.

Maud Adams is wonderful (if I may say so) particularly when she is playing dead (or, as the film would have it, actually dead).  I am speaking of course about the Thai boxing match scene.  It must have been no small feat to look so icy-cold in such a heated environment.  The whole mise-en-scène is so delicately artful that there is no doubt what we are seeing is thoroughly cinematic (meant in the most superlative sense).

Britt Ekland is wonderful as the bumbling white-hot Bond girl Mary Goodnight.  No wonder she and Peter Sellers had been married.  She’s a right bird!

Guy Hamilton must have really taken to Clifton James as the latter unbelievably reprises his role as Louisiana Sherriff J.W. Pepper.  This really does make the film essential viewing for Cajuns the world-round.  The AMC chase with Moore and “deputy” Pepper is exhilarating and hilarious.  This really shows the European influence of Hamilton, though one might think him Italian rather than French.  Nonetheless, the mélange of emotions warrants mention as particularly “other” from the Anglo-American milieu in which we seem to be racing around.

But there is no missing the recurring reference to The Lady from Shanghai in the funhouse mirrors which bookend this wonderful movie.  Nick Nack, likewise, presages Mini-Me of the Austin Powers franchise.

One final thought…  There is a troublesome moment when Bond pushes a Thai boy into a canal.  For a moment, reality erupts within the spectacle (to more-or-less quote another famous Guy:  Debord).  It reminds us that espionage is not all fun and games.  People get hurt.  People are used.  There are many means to an end.  But I credit the series and even this film with upholding a certain stereotype of the British which I think has some truth to it…in a couple of words:  tact and manners.  Bond doesn’t really hurt the boy, though it is rather cruel seeing as how the boy had just helped him out of a “jam” only to have Bond, moreover, immediately renege on a 20,000 baht reward.  But even Scaramanga seems to appreciate the “sporting” nature of British fairness…offering Bond a chance.  True…Bond kicks a martial arts opponent in the face during the preordained moment for bowing to the sensei of the dojo, but Bond was outnumbered 20 to 1 (or thereabouts).  The final test comes when Nick Nack ends up in a suitcase courtesy of 007.  We assume from Ekland’s response that Bond has thrown the little person overboard, but we see at the end that the devilish manservant ended up in a wicker cage hoisted up the junk’s rigging.  I admire this delicacy.  Keep Bond and carry on!

 

-PD