Thunder Alley

The relatively easy inside joke is that the race car driver is Jacob, his new boss at the Thrill Circus is Laban, and the problem is the conflict with Esau. This is thrown into the realm of psychological speculation with obvious reference to Hitchcock’s Spellbound as a matter of structure.

The analysis is sharpened in Rush’s reading of the Dalinian mythos (with reference to Edward Ludwig’s Mozartean racing film, The Big Wheel).

Rush’s brilliance stylizes a night at Turk’s into a classically-built swirl and dazzle of color, and the dapper way he arranges the nonchalant presentation of Funicello’s song, “When You Get What You Want”, is probably derived from Minnelli.


The Savage Seven

Above all, this is an homage to The Magnificent Seven, the heroes being a motorcycle gang. They terrorize an Indian reservation after a fashion, liberate a grocery store, and are accused of a girl’s murder, but it turns out that the proprietors of the reservation are in fact guilty.

Much play is made with the theme of modern-day savages. The motorcyclists wear war paint in their final assault on the besieged Indians, who are deceived about the murder.

Chuck Bail carries a good deal of the action onscreen as a shopkeeper and karate expert of sorts. In a scene which prefigures A Perfect World, the gangleader (Adam Roarke) encourages a young Indian boy to pilfer a bit of candy, and a grand fight ensues. Robert Walker, Jr. figures in the superb jest of desert, grimacing savage, and knife fight observed by Indians with a man wearing sunglasses.

Bail and Rush tear out all the stops for the great action sequence at the finale, with flying motorcycles and leaping men crisscrossing in Bailian fervor and Úlan. Throughout, Rush works his extras only minimally, setting off his thespians effectively and allowing some candid pictures.


Getting Straight

Harry Bailey home from the war and back at school. The subtle conversation is carried on between Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, Welles’ The Trial, and Whale’s The Invisible Man.

Two works of literature conclude the argument, The Faerie Queene and The Great Gatsby, at which point it is to be understood that the fearful mediocrity of university academics by and large has become an alternative lifestyle and an open menace.


Freebie and the Bean

Eastwood paid homage to this masterpiece in The Rookie, and it shares some features with Parks’ The Super Cops, though the main inspiration seems to have come from Bullitt with its topsy-turvy predicament.

Two San Francisco intelligence detectives are obliged to protect their high-level quarry from assassination so they can arrest him themselves. The assassin pro tem is a strangely feminine transvestite with a judo kick, who dies in a ladies’ room at the Super Bowl (Freebie staunches his own wound with sanitary napkins rifled from the dispenser).

The uniqueness of the style comes partly from Rush’s tough-minded application of erudite slapstick in the broadest and wildest sense, and partly from his adroit realism giving contrarily an unforced expression to brilliant scenes like the Bean’s interrogation of his wife, or the ambulance ride at the close (resembling Bertolucci’s 1900) shot as a POV intercut with bronze cherubs playing in a fountain, for example.

Variety and the New York Times were mightily offended.


The Stunt Man

The running gag is that the crane really is a crane. The specific construction depends on two famous Hollywood stories, the filming of The General and Wyler’s browbeating of Audrey Hepburn.