Truck Turner

The main action is the death at “Mack Truck” Turner’s hands of one Richard Leroy “Gator” Johnson, a pimp, and the rise to subsequent vengeance of his madam, Dorinda.

“Urban” meant “civilized” at the time of filming, and Kaplan views the city (Los Angeles) as a civilized place. He sets up his camera at the fountain in Pershing Square and through its streams of water gives a view of Turner and his girl in the cosmopolitan center. This is not to be taken for the present consideration of the city as “camp,” and neither is this film to be criticized on those lines, with a “political correctness” correspondingly asinine.

It has been said that Truck Turner is inferior to the much-admired Black Belt Jones, but much of this adverse criticism appears to be aimed at Isaac Hayes’ performance unjustly, merely because he created an impression on The Rockford Files hard to efface. It is otherwise impossible to reconcile blistering remarks directed at this film with the actual evidence.

Kaplan is more at home filming in Los Angeles than Jack Starrett, even. He accepts it all as fodder for quick setups that can be turned to grand account. A most ornate display of architectural molding and carving fills the screen, the camera moves down to reveal an archway at the cemetery where Gator is to be interred. Rival pimps approach the casket and flick ashes into it. The last one spits into it. He’s known as Harvard Blue, an educated man of discretion nevertheless. He resists Dorinda’s collateral of whores for Turner’s murder, saying only “an Act of Congress or the United States Army” could protect her from the heat Turner will provide. One by one, other pimps try and fail. A personal slight decides Harvard Blue to get into the game, and this proves his undoing.

The remarkable performances are achieved in full awareness of their savage, biting comedy. Nichelle Nichols as Dorinda parades her girls to her investors, each with a gross income announced in tens of thousands of dollars. One is a “Paris model,” even. Yaphet Kotto as Harvard Blue plays a line of reserve and affront, until the grand hospital scene at the close erupts in a shootout and he takes a hostage (a little boy) as a shield. His death is apparently filmed under the inspiration of Scorsese or Gance, the camera being attached to his chest to give a fixed close-up against changing backgrounds, with a POV reverse shot as he totters to his car.


Mr. Billion

Falcon Finance’s founder gets the bird, an auto mechanic in Italy gets the firm.

Fan of Western movies, the heir, especially John Wayne.

Firm has a financial manager actually running it. Trouble is, you have to get there to take charge.

First you translate page by page the power of attorney agreement, you and your dictionary.

The trip to America is accomplished the same old way, no royal road.

“Bring me the signature of Guido Falcone.”

Behind the wheel, Steve McQueen, another favorite.

Which is to say how hard it is to get there from here.

John Ford’s My Darling Clementine at a sparsely attended children’s matinee.

Kaplan and his film get drunk and sapped and meet a real cowboy and wear a real hat, after that (cf. Peckinpah’s Junior Bonner).

Ya know, this is still a free country, even if we are in the calaboose.”

“Eat it”, says the deputy’s Ford Mach 1.

Quite a panoply of films, “expurgated, accelerated, improved and reduced,” Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels among them.

Murder is for underlings, a classical theme at Shoshone Point, something by Guido Reni perhaps, definitely Hitchcockian.


In Cold Blood

A profitless crime explained by emulation or envy. Kaplan’s technique is ideally half-assed in a wave pattern of alternating heights and pits, rendering a null effect honorably. A Gone With the Wind remake is proposed in Charles S. Dubin’s Drop-Out Mother. Kaplan identifies this project with its subject and yet leaves room for the actors, the scenic direction and other innocent bystanders.