Friday, November 18, 2011

Worth Mentioning - I Warned You, Stupid

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week, Jay visits The Bleeding House and Cody doubles up on Walter Matthau crime thrillers.


Directed by Philip Gelatt
Starring Patrick Breen, Alexandra Chando, Betsy Aidem, Richard Bekins, Charlie Hewson, and Nina Lisandrello

Philip Gelatt's The Bleeding House takes place at the country home of the Smith family, a very troubled group of people with a dark past and a terrible secret. Whatever happened has left them alienated with the nearby town, and it's a source of great frustration for them.  A Southern stranger named Nick arrives, wearing a white suit and carrying a case full of surgeon supplies with him. He has car trouble and needs a place to stay for the night. At dinner, Mr. Smith asks Nick what he does for a living, to which Nick replies rather frankly, "I cut people up." After a few seconds he eases the tension and adds, "I'm a surgeon."

The Smiths are eager to talk to Nick and Nick is eager to learn more about their teenage daughter, Gloria. She's a strange girl and will only reply or acknowledge her parents when they refer to her as "Black Bird." Within minutes of Nick's arrival, he witnesses Gloria snap a bird's neck in half out of defiance of her mother. Nick is intrigued by her oddities, and wants to learn as much about the family as possible. He quickly changes tune though and stops talking-- instead he begins to knock them out and tie them up.

I've read fan reviews of this film stating it was boring and too slow. I disagree 100% with that, and while I don't think it's an amazing film, it was more than watchable and by the end of it I found myself enjoying it a good bit. There's a spin on the family secret that is pretty dark and twisted, and Alexandra Chondo was impressive to me as a very weird girl with a few secrets of her own. It's available for Instant Viewing on Netflix and is well worth a watch!

Cody's picks:



Violence erupts in a small town when a bank robbery - led by Walter Matthau as the title character - goes wrong, resulting in casualties both among the robbers and responding police officers.

The troubles for Charley and his surviving partner Harman Sullivan (Andrew Robinson) are just beginning. Charley didn't expect the bank they robbed to have any more than 20 to $30,000. They got away with over $750,000. The bank only reports losing $2000. The rest of the money is dirty, dropped at the bank by the mafia to start the process of being laundered.

So now, on top of dealing with the getaway and Sullivan's increasing alcohol-fueled instability, Charley also has to contend with mafia banker Maynard Boyle (John Vernon) and the enforcer (Joe Don Baker) who has been dispatched to find the robbers.

While trying to figure out whether or not the robbery was an inside job, Boyle threatens the bank manager with a line that will be familiar to many people who have never seen this movie. He says that mafia enforcers will "go to work on you with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch." Quentin Tarantino had a character use this line in Pulp Fiction twenty years later.

The novel The Looters by John Reese was adapted into Charley Varrick by Howard Rodman and Dean Riesner, and the film was directed by the legendary Don Siegel.

I mainly associate Walter Matthau with comedy, but the man had dramatic chops as well, and here he plays his role almost completely straight. Another comedy favorite who plays it straight in this film is Normal Fell, best known as Three's Company's Mr. Roper, in a small role as investigator Mr. Garfinkle.

It's not all bad for Charley Varrick in this movie, though. He does manage to hook up with Boyle's secretary along the way. The secretary is played by Felicia Farr, wife of Matthau's friend and frequent co-star Jack Lemmon.


Things were running as usual in the New York City subway system when one of the trains departed from Pelham Bay Park Station at 1:23pm. By 2:10pm, some very unusual things have happened.

The Pelham train is hijacked by four gun-wielding men who address each other as Mister Blue, Mister Green, Mister Brown, and Mister Grey. Yes, this film is where Quentin Tarantino got the idea for giving his Reservoir Dogs criminals their colorful codenames.

The train is stopped between stations, communications shut down, the front car is uncoupled from the rest of the train and the seventeen passengers in it and the conductor are now hostages. Blue, the leader of the hijackers, then calls in their demands: $1 million must be delivered to them within one hour. If it's not, a passenger will be killed for every minute that the money's late.

A large portion of the film takes place within this window of time, as the police try to figure out how exactly to deal with this and the Mayor has to figure out how to get $1 million or if he should even try to. While the authorities panic, Blue does crossword puzzles. Almost all of Blue's communication with the outside world is done through Transit Police Lieutenant Zachary Garber, who tries to do some negotiating with him as time ticks down. And the question remains - even if the hijackers get the money, how do they expect to escape from the underground tunnel with it?

Adapted by Peter Stone from a novel by John Godey, the script is very well written. The film has a great tone and pace, expertly directed by Joseph Sargent and topped with memorable music by David Shire. The cast is fantastic. Garber is played by Walter Matthau, likeable as always as he perfectly handles the dramatic scenes and back-and-forth with Blue while also providing the film with some laugh out loud moments. Jerry Stiller has a supporting role as one of Garber's Transit pals. Robert Shaw plays the serious, militaristic Mister Blue, giving another awesome performance to stand alongside his roles as Quint in Jaws and Red Grant in From Russia with Love. His team is rounded out by Martin Balsam as fired subway employee Mister Green, Earl Hindman (who went on to be known as Wilson on Home Improvement) as the stuttering Mister Brown, and Hector Elizondo as the volatile Mister Grey.

Pelham has since been remade twice, as a TV movie in 1998 and by Tony Scott in 2009. The 1974 version is the only one I can vouch for, and I highly recommend it. I rewatched it this week thanks to DriveInMob having a live Tweet viewing.

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