At the zenith of his power, he “runs this fuckin’ town”, the pudgy little hood has bought so many public servants he cannot be dislodged.
The severe abstraction imposed by Howard Browne’s screenplay on that master class of crimefighting, Quinn Martin’s The Untouchables, leaves intact the style of the series. This is the main point at issue and completely escaped the critics in Chicago and New York.
The kingmaker by dint of Volstead takes Torrio’s crime zones into a war, on St. Valentine’s Day in ’29 the World’s Fair is imperiled, Nitti farms him to the Feds.
Good business practices begin with Colosimo (Frank Campanella) running “hoorhouses and gambling”, Torrio leaves Frankie Yale (John Cassavetes) to take over the Chicago empire. In the four-way split with O’Banion and the Genna brothers, Capone (Ben Gazzara) sees his chance while Torrio (Harry Guardino) crumbles.
Iris Crawford (Susan Blakely) likes the lowlife beyond a sporting senator, Capone don’t take no rough stuff against a broad, he’s fearless and a racy talker. Her death in a Nitti (Sylvester Stallone) ambush brings out the Roman Catholic in Capone.
He, too, like Colosimo and Torrio before him, is a businessman finally. Red-tinted freeze-frames govern the scenes, in the last he’s out of prison by the pool with a fishing-rod, sick in the head and railing at J. Edgar Hoover in his mind for ignoring the Bolshevik threat.
“Grand opera, it’s the berries.”
An Eye for an Eye
Carver’s direction is the primary cause, but all he does is adroitly film his players unflinchingly. His one outstanding exploit is focus pulling, as when a long shot of Alcatraz in the bay resolves to a close-up of a fizzy drink in Christopher Lee’s office, into which the latter plops a sliced berry.
Chuck Norris’s extremely sharp acting conflicts amusingly with Matt Clark’s poise to the benefit of the script. Lee is monstrous behind a desk, monstrous smoking a pipe, monstrous assembling his minions, and finally gets beaten to a pulp. Really, it reminds you of Charles Bronson’s wish to just once lean on a mantle and sip a cocktail.
Lone Wolf McQuade
He is one ornery Ranger. Falcon (pronounced Fall-CONE) draws him in with a nefarious assault upon a U.S. Army convoy, in quest of arms (Falcon rides a motorized wheelchair, and is a dwarf).
The Mexican Mafia has a norteamericano (David Carradine) to its purpose, who challenges the Ranger more than once to kung fu vs. karate.
In a gag which figures mutatis mutandis in The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew and Fleischer’s or Kneitel’s or Kinney’s or Altman’s Popeye, the Ranger is buried in his vehicle, pops open a beer, revs it up and drives it out with a roar.
R.G. Armstrong is the Captain, L.Q. Jones an ally, Sharon Farrell an ex-wife. Barbara Carrera walks away with the picture by sheer dint of artistic skill and devotion (she sweeps his chaotic house like Elsa Lanchester in Pommer’s Vessel of Wrath). Carver’s drypan has an elusive key, with all its posing. In the end, the Ranger is called out on another case (that would be Walker, Texas Ranger) and you recognize William Berke’s or John Rawlins’ Dick Tracy.
Capt. McBain is called back into service when a new tank is captured by terrorists south of the border. This is a People’s Liberation Army of various Latin Americans and Arabs, the tank is being delivered to the Soviets.
McBain is a detective on the Los Angeles police force, he is first seen with his partner on sleepy stakeout at the port, busting up an arms deal and pursuing the culprits, whose catering truck has a machine gun in the back and hand grenades in a steam tray.
Carver has blindsided the critics somewhat by resting his film on an understanding of Emilio Fernandez’s early and little-known masterpiece Soy puro mexicano, in which the Axis powers lay plans for a takeover of Mexico (he also pays homage to J. Lee Thompson’s currently undervalued King Solomon’s Mines).
The tank is approached by the terrorist army after the obligatory celebration of firing into the air, its “skin” is electrified like the Nautilus in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, an Arab is toasted.
McBain parachutes in, meets two partisans, bravely reaches the tank and is surrounded. Not even the soldiers captured with it are versed in its operation. Later, when McBain and a lady captain have gained the tank at last, she pushes buttons blindly, a coffeemaker appears.
Carver’s slow-motion sequences are a selah to the scene before, the captain is pressured to open the tank, McBain at home recalls her on the beach. The tank is seized from an Army convoy near the border, McBain and another partner are in an undercover deal that goes sour (the adverse party is none other than the Soviet major).
There is a keen relationship to such films as John Mackenzie’s The Last of the Finest, Joseph Zito’s Invasion U.S.A. and others.
River of Death
TV Guide meticulously describes the plot, revealing the structure, but gets some elements wrong and complains of “weak story structuring.” It also calls this anti-Nazi film “xenophobic,” strangely.
The structure is a pirouette, as Dali would say. In Germany at the end of the war, a young girl loses her father when he objects to the hideous experiments conducted by Dr. Manteuffel (Robert Vaughn). In the Amazon exactly twenty years later, a girl loses her father (a humanitarian doctor) to angry natives who hold her captive. The guide (Michael Dudikoff) goes back in to the lost city to find her, accompanied by a retinue of assorted characters, including Manteuffel’s former SS partner (Donald Pleasence).
In the end, the merest spark is enough to dispel the darkness and bring River of Death to a swift conclusion. Isn’t it always the way?