The image of a professional criminal is derived from Bonnie and Clyde stripped of psychological understandings except the one. This leaves a question of style, Baby Face Nelson “kills everyone and takes the money”, Dillinger likes to be remembered.
Melvin G. Purvis has the time of his life eliminating the gang for the FBI.
The lady in red, also a professional, is a special case reserved for the end.
The Wind and the Lion
Pauline Kael’s remarks on The Wind and the Lion are a sort of ideal stupidity that probably reflects the rapid editing more than anything else.
Brian Keith plays Theodore Roosevelt as a weak-eyed man who has made himself strong, but not above flashing a bully smile merely to be politic. Candice Bergen possibly reflects a solid appreciation of Sir David Lean’s joke on Hitchcock in Lawrence’s resemblance to Lara, and Sean Connery certainly reflects Anthony Quinn in Lawrence of Arabia. John Huston is an ably sophisticated actor in the role of John Hay, the Secretary of State. Steve Kanaly’s performance as the Marine captain has been remarked (and Vladek Sheybal’s Bashaw is above all remarkable), but one would especially point to the casting of Roy Jenson as the Admiral, which indicates a directorial mind at work.
What puzzled critics such as Halliwell as much as the editing was the necessary but perhaps unexpected synthesis of Lawrence of Arabia, Khartoum and The Sand Pebbles, absorbing the influence of such works as The Charge of the Light Brigade or The Devil’s Disciple (and The Wild Bunch, in the Marines’ slow walk to the German fortifications). Having done that, however, having absorbed all that and therefore coming to terms with the work itself, it’s astonishing how much has been overlooked from a critical standpoint.
The characters are less caricatures than fitfully illuminated by each other’s proximity, revealed as clear types such as Geoffrey Lewis’s political accessory. And then, the abrupt vigor of a scene like the Marines marching at the double into Tangier from the docks (and Siodmak’s Custer of the West, to be sure), sending townsfolk scurrying before them or diving out of the way, receiving curious stares from tourists, frighting a dog into a defensive stance, is related to the multiplicity of effect carefully achieved by Richard Lester in such a film as Cuba, with a sort of Delacroix flair seen in the action sequences generally, a resultant of the synthesis or a new accretion.
Difficult as it may be, the critics ought to have been put on their toes by the very opening, waves breaking followed by a wide screen full of Wellesian movement.
The two key works are William Asher’s Beach Party and Bruce Brown’s Slippery When Wet, or possibly Surf Crazy. These define a constant amid the events of Milius’ film.
The collapsing universe of a kind of grace period, youth, under a mentor and incarnation like Borges’ Macedonio Fernandez.
Critics did not perceive this vast, complex structure, critics have deadlines.
Conan the Barbarian
The construction is pointedly abstruse, Polanski’s Macbeth is registered in James Earl Jones’ resemblance to Jon Finch here.
Captivity and gladiatorial training suggest a whole host of precedents, Samson, Demetrius, Ben-Hur, Spartacus.
The unusual function of images that query the mind lends them force and depth, the sword in the cave evokes If.... and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
The well-known war paint on the hero is Nijinsky’s as the faun. The finale by torchlight has many associations, Apocalypse Now among them.
A vast range of films is cited, from The North Star to The Heroes of Telemark and beyond. Nonetheless it seems fairly patent that the essential strangeness of the whole business is the real business of the film, because if you look at it very closely you’ll see it defines an essentially radical position in the most definite terms. There’s no mistaking the polarity here, this is an attempt to portray a resistance movement against a superpower army.
Everything depends on following this through. These might be freedom fighters, left-wing or right-wing radicals, revolutionaries or partisans. They are specifically represented as American juveniles known by their high school team name, facing the Soviet Army.
It would appear that the violence of this construction is meant to achieve a surreal leap of the mind, and that is infinitely to be preferred over the mindless canting rubbish written about this film.
Farewell To The King
Milius reports it as “completely cut to pieces”. A quaint image is still present of a GI gone AWOL after MacArthur’s retreat who rules a domain of Borneo tribesmen. After the war, he’s arrested for desertion.
This, certainly not as altered by the studio, did not strike a chord with reviewers.
Tarzan and Lawrence of Arabia are spoken of in the same breath by way of comparison.
Flight of the Intruder
The work appears to fall between two stools, the grinding New York Times bestseller and the video game, by dint of “studio interference” (according to Milius) abstracting the director’s chair, but evidence remains of whatever was intended, here and there.
The idea is certainly to convey the novelty of the experience for men who were very few of them anything approximating the title except in a lay fashion.
Teddy Roosevelt advocates a willingness to shed “blood, treasure, and tears”, Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt sheds all three.
The charge up San Juan Hill or Heights or Kettle Hill, under German guns supporting Spanish troops.
Many citations of films are given, the Easterner tricked into riding a bronco not yet busted sits the horse easily as an experienced polo-player and reaches way down from the saddle to pick up his straw hat out of Red River.