Chase, The (1966)

Chase, The (1966)

“He’s our son: no matter what happens, he’s our son.”

A fugitive (Robert Redford) wrongly accused of murder tries to make his way back home to either his parents (Miriam Hopkins and Malcolm Atterbury) or his wife (Jane Fonda), who still loves him but has continued her affair with the married son (James Fox) of the town’s bigwig businessman (E.G. Marshall). The local sheriff (Marlon Brando) — with support from his wife (Angie Dickinson) — tries to find Redford in a lawful manner; but when other townspeople learn about his supposedly murderous act, chaos quickly ensues.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Angie Dickinson Films
  • Arthur Penn Films
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Fugitives
  • James Fox Films
  • Jane Fonda Films
  • Janice Rule Films
  • Marlon Brando Films
  • Miriam Hopkins Films
  • Race Relations and Racism
  • Robert Duvall Films
  • Robert Redford Films
  • Sheriffs and Marshals
  • Small Town America
  • Vigilantes

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “the decline and fall of American society is the theme of Arthur Penn’s cynical cult film, which is probably why it’s more popular in Europe than in America” (I’m curious if this remains true). Peary points out that this film was “unevenly adapted by Lillian Hellman from Horton Foote’s novel and play,” telling an overly ambitious story “set in a small Texan town” where “characters… are meant to represent every segment of a sick society” — and while “many are believable,” there are also “many caricatures spouting cliches.”

Among the motley cast we see “lawmen, lawbreakers, escaped prisoners; whites and blacks; rich, middle-class, and poor; faithful and unfaithful women; old people and youths (who have learned decadence and violence from the adults in town); [and] the decent and the corrupted.”

Peary points out that the “picture starts out… slowly,” with “three dull parties going on simultaneously, meant to show how the town is divided according to wealth and age.”

(Actually, the first party doesn’t begin until 36 minutes in, and the next two at around 50 minutes.) However, he asserts that the picture “becomes extremely exciting as the violence escalates scene by scene.” He points out as “truly powerful” (not to mention notoriously violent) the “scene in which Brando is beaten up by three ‘citizens’;” his bloodied face reminds one instantly of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954).

Peary notes that the “picture has strong characters and many interesting relationships, including that between Redford, Fonda, and… Fox”:

… and he points out that among the vast cast are “Angie Dickinson (who’s at her best as Brando’s wife)”:

… “E.G. Marshall (as Fox’s father, the rich man who runs the town)”:

… and “Miriam Hopkins (as Redford’s batty, stingy mother.”

Unfortunately, there is simply too much going on in this overcooked film, which was handled by too many screenwriters (neither Hellman nor Foote were happy), and purportedly didn’t reflect Penn’s vision, either (he wasn’t involved in editing at all, given producer Sal Spiegel’s heavy-handed approach). A subplot about a Black man (Joel Fluellen) being threatened and then imprisoned for his own safety is barely given any attention:

… instead simply adding to the overall tapestry of the town. By the end, when literal flames have erupted (thanks to reckless townsfolk), we appropriately despair for the state of humanity as reflected here.

Note: Interested viewers can read more about this movie in chapter 2 of Fiasco: A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops (2006) by James R. Parish, available through the Internet Archive. Yay for open access! For the record, other GFTFF-listed titles discussed in this book (which I have yet to read in full) include Cleopatra (1963), Popeye (1980), and The Cotton Club (1984).

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Marlon Brando as Sheriff Calder
  • Angie Dickinson as Ruby Calder
  • Robert Duvall as Edwin Stewart
  • Joseph LaShelle’s Panavision cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s definitely worth a one-time look.


3 thoughts on “Chase, The (1966)

  1. I’d agree more or less with your assessment, an interesting failure that seems to be more highly considered these days without anyone claiming it as a lost classic. The kind of story that would probably be better served by being a multi-part TV serial where the increased amount of running time.

    On the subject of flops and specifically Popeye (1980); it cost $20 million and made $60 million which is three times production coat which at the time was the baseline to considered a success. It’s just Hollywood greed where both Disney and Paramount expected it to be a mega blockbuster and be bigger so was considered a disappointment. Definitely not a failure but merely underperformed against expectations.

  2. Rewatch (12/19/21). A once-must, for the cast and Penn’s direction. As posted in ‘Revival House of Camp & Cult’ (fb):

    “Things come too late. I guess for most people.”

    ‘The Chase’: When I was a kid, this movie seemed to be shown A LOT on tv. Seemed like, every time you turned around, there it was again – only in black and white (since we didn’t have a color tv) and what I now realize was probably about 20 minutes or so cut to make room for commercials. Rather dismissed at the time of its release, it has – over time – been reassessed as unfairly maligned.

    Its plot is simple: Robert Redford (not that believable as a Southern boy but then many in the cast eschew accents; a notable exception being Brit James Fox) escapes from prison. He was sent there on a charge that wasn’t that serious and, when word spreads that he’s out, a number of people in his town suspect he’ll return to get revenge. One of these is Robert Duvall – who thinks Redford may be holding a grudge from childhood (!).

    Duvall’s character is accused several times of being gay by the upstart co-worker (Richard Bradford) who is carrying on with Duvall’s wife (Janice Rule):
    Duvall: I don’t like men who hit women.
    Bradford: You don’t like men who do *anything* with women.

    For her part, scene-stealer Rule is quietly hilarious as a woman who probably thinks about sex anytime she isn’t actually asleep (though it’s likely she dreams about it).

    The script credited to Lillian Hellman was largely rewritten, since producer Sam Spiegel didn’t like it. It’s recognizable as being adapted from an original play and novel by the terrific Horton Foote.

    This is mainly a movie to see for its cast – which includes an impressive Marlon Brando, a nicely understated Angie Dickinson, and sturdy work by veterans E.G. Marshall, Miriam Hopkins and Henry Hull.

    But maybe my favorite here is Jane Fonda – because I get a certain kick out of her ‘Southern gothic’ flicks (‘Hurry Sundown’, ‘Period of Adjustment’, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’). She usually doesn’t sound all that Southern either but there’s something compelling about the way she takes on deep-fried potboiler angst.

    There’s also an energetic score by the dependable John Barry.

  3. I waffled on my vote for this one; I was originally going to vote “Yes, once” because it fully held my attention, and I’m a huge Brando nerd. I could go either way.

    There was more to mention in my review, which I gave up on because I’d already spent enough time on it – but I’ll say quickly here it’s also notable for “featuring” Paul Williams in a tiny role as a teenage partier (he’s barely shown, the poor thing), and for the obnoxious roles played by Henry Hull and Jocelyn Brando as a “Greek chorus” of nosy, married, childless neighbors who literally get up in everyone’s business by walking around all evening long, staring at other people’s lives, and passing (vocal) judgment.

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