“The ride was over: I was trapped, and I find out suddenly I owe a fortune.”
A comedian (Warren Beatty) goes on the lam from the mob due to a debt he can’t repay; but who, exactly, is after him — and why?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Arthur Penn Films
- Living Nightmares
- No One Believes Me
- Warren Beatty Films
Before collaborating on Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Arthur Penn and Warren Beatty made this paranoia-infused existentialist flick which wasn’t well-received by most audience members or critics — though it garnered new attention and respect in 1995 when it was revived. Beatty looks (appropriately) perpetually edgy and concerned, and Hurd Hatfield — who co-starred in Penn’s debut film The Left-Handed Gun (1958) — lurks around the periphery as talent agent “Mr. Castle” (possibly coded as gay).
In one of his final roles, Franchot Tone plays Beatty’s manager, Ruby Lapp — and while his age is showing, this simply adds to the Kafkaesque surreality of the film.
According to Jeff Stafford’s article for TCM:
Because Penn wanted to make a European style art film but with a distinct American identity, he filmed most of the movie in unfamiliar locations in and around Chicago with Belgium cinematographer Ghislain Cloquet, [who] had filmed Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog (1955), Louis Malle’s The Fire Within (1963) and many other acclaimed European films and would eventually win the Oscar for Tess (1979).
Indeed, Cloquet’s stark cinematography is a signature feature of the movie.
Note: Film fanatics may be tickled to see Akira Kurosawa’s stock actor Kamatari Fujiwara make an unusual appearance as the creator of an elaborate art machine (the relevance of which is never really explained).
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Ghislain Cloquet’s cinematography
No, unless you’re an Arthur Penn or Warren Beatty completist. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.