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Month: October 2022

Point Blank (1967)

Point Blank (1967)

“Wherever you go, trouble finds you out.”

During a heist at Alcatraz, a thief (Lee Marvin) is shot and left for dead by his partner (John Vernon) and wife (Sharon Acker) — but he survives and seeks vengeance on them, demanding the money he is owed from a criminal organization and receiving help from both a mysterious man (Keenan Wynn) and his wife’s sister (Angie Dickinson).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Angie Dickinson Films
  • Ex-Cons
  • John Boorman Films
  • Keenan Wynn Films
  • Lee Marvin Films
  • Revenge

Response to Peary’s Review:
Since first reading it years ago, I’ve never forgotten the opening line to Peary’s review of this stylish revenge-flick, based on a novel by Donald E. Westlake: “With ice water in his veins, Lee Marvin goes after his ex-partner.”

Indeed, Marvin stays uncannily calm, cool, and collected as he carries out his deliberate quest to first annihilate the seemingly untouchable Vernon, and then collect the money he is owed, going as high up as he needs to on the organizational food chain.

Peary writes that director “John Boorman’s cult film boasts interesting characters, choice locales (around L.A., at Alcatraz prison), and virtuoso camera and editing techniques.”

He adds that “the extremely violent action sequences are particularly well handled” and “the film’s audacious style and unusual dialogue have made it extremely popular in Europe.”

He points out that Marvin — fresh off of his Oscar win for Cat Ballou (1965) and filming in The Dirty Dozen (1967) — “has one of his best roles” playing “his scariest character since he played villains”; as described in TCM’s article, “Lee Marvin moves with the precision of a machine, cold, calculating, relentless; he could be the predecessor to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s annihilating cyborg in The Terminator (1984).”

It’s impossible to imagine this film without Marvin, whose central performance is — well, dead-on. He is a freaking Terminator, but can one blame him given all he’s been through? His single-minded violence stands in interesting contrast with smarmy Vernon, who menaces beautiful Dickinson:

… but not for long. Meanwhile, the movie is filled with jarring action sequences, memorable imagery, and creative use of location shooting throughout California.

This flick remains well worth a look, and has held up well.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Lee Marvin as Walker
  • John Vernon as Reese
  • Angie Dickinson as Chris
  • Exciting action sequences
  • Philip Lathrop’s cinematography
  • Excellent use of authentic locales

Must See?
Yes, as a stylish thriller.


  • Genuine Classic
  • Noteworthy Performance(s)

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


Zorba the Greek (1964)

Zorba the Greek (1964)

“To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble.”

When a British-Greek writer (Alan Bates) arrives in Crete with the intention of opening a lignite mine, he meets a charismatic laborer named Zorba (Anthony Quinn) who quickly becomes an inextricable part of his life.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alan Bates Films
  • Anthony Quinn Films
  • Character Studies
  • Greece
  • Mining Towns
  • Village Life
  • Widows and Widowers

Three years after co-starring in The Guns of Navarone (1961), Anthony Quinn and Greek actress Irene Papas were once again paired on-screen in this adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’s 1946 novel. Although the story follows Bates as he arrives in his rocky island village, it’s clear that the primary focus is on the larger-than-life title character, who has numerous “life lessons” to pass along to “Boss” (his affectionate nickname for Bates).

Zorba’s wisdom and guidance include the following, as evidenced from direct quotes:

“You think too much.”
“Why did God give us hands? To grab. Well, grab!”
“I got up, and I danced… It was the dancing — only the dancing — that stopped the pain.”
“Now I look at a man, any man, and I say, ‘He is good. He is bad.’ What do I care if he’s Greek or Turk?”
“A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut the rope and be free.”

So, the creatively-blocked Bates clearly must learn to “let go” and love life — which includes allowing himself to be seduced by a beautiful widow (Irene Papas) who the villagers wrongly believe “belongs” to another young man who is in love with her; but the outcome of their brief dalliance is nothing short of tragic.

Indeed, a primary take-away from this tale is that the type of morality-policing of women we still see going on (albeit now accompanied by a much-needed uprising) is endemic in some societies — alongside xenophobia, as exemplified by the villagers’ disdainful treatment of a local French woman (Lila Kedrova) who spends her time reminiscing about her numerous wartime lovers, and who Zorba takes pity on.

Her eventual fate near the end of the film is equally distressing, especially given that it’s primarily driven by other aging women.

Co-producer Quinn’s performance — while arguably over-the-top at times — drives the film, showing us the inherent complexity of this middle-aged dynamo, who lives, loves, dreams, and acts at full volume. His impassioned performance (along with Kedrova’s touching turn as a deluded former-siren) make this critically and commercially popular film worth a look, though it’s not must-see viewing.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Anthony Quinn as Zorba
  • Lila Kedrova as Madame Hortense
  • Walter Lassally’s Oscar-winning cinematography

  • Mikis Theodorakis’s instantly recognizable score

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended for one-time viewing. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


Guns of Navarone, The (1961)

Guns of Navarone, The (1961)

“The only way to win a war is to be as nasty as the enemy.”

During World War II, Major Roy Franklin (Anthony Quayle) leads a skilled commando unit — consisting of a former mountaineer (Gregory Peck), a demolitions expert (David Niven), a Greek colonel (Anthony Quinn), an engineer (Stanley Baker), and two female resistance agents (Irene Papas and Gia Scala) — in attempting to bomb a pair of gigantic, Nazi-owned guns on the Greek island of Navarone.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Anthony Quayle Films
  • Anthony Quinn Films
  • David Niven Films
  • Greece
  • Gregory Peck Films
  • Military
  • Nazis
  • Richard Harris Films
  • World War II

This top-grossing film of 1961 — based on a 1957 novel by Alistair MacLean, with a screenplay by Carl Foreman — was helmed by J. Lee Thompson, and featured an international cast of actors generally considered too old for their roles, but nonetheless convincing as a motley group of specialists brought together for a seemingly suicidal mission.

The action is nicely paced throughout, with tensions between characters emerging quickly, and an added eventual plot twist of a traitor in their midst. Meanwhile, there are ample Nazi baddies to hiss at.

The film was shot both in studio and on location (on the island of Rhodes), and the title (fictional) guns themselves are truly a sight to behold. As DVD Savant points out, the film’s “immediate legacy can be seen in the best of the James Bond films, where 007 similarly squirrels his way into outrageously grandiose vaults and fortresses.”

Given that this is a film best seen to be enjoyed, I won’t say much more about it.

Note: Interestingly, Alexander Mackendrick was originally hired to helm this film, but was fired due to “creative differences”.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine performances by the ensemble cast — particularly David Niven as Cpl. Miller
  • Good use of location shooting (merged with studio footage)
  • Numerous exciting action scenes

Must See?
Yes, as an engaging Hollywood epic. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


  • Good Show
  • Historically Relevant