Any Which Way You Can

Every Which Way But Loose ends with Philo taking a dive because the local yokel he’s up against has a following. Any Which Way You Can has him corralled into a brawl in Jackson Hole, with assorted interests and mob money involved. The motorcycle gang out of Beach Blanket Bingo is back, eventually with shaved heads and wigs, and after the climax (from Ford’s The Quiet Man) they ride off in a limousine.

The film opens with a long daylight helicopter shot of the approach to a city, which gradually centers on a freeway, and lowers further until the helicopter is flying alongside Philo’s truck. This is the announcement of a work of art, and anyone who thinks this isn’t a masterpiece is probably on the staff of one of our major daily newspapers, which is to say not much in a journalistic way.

Van Horn resumes in a general sense the technique of Terence Young, for example (the fluid medium close shot, variegated with the medium long shot for a dry comic effect). His style has roots in the soil of Keaton, say, along a stem delineated by Cannonball Run, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Pat and Mike, etc.


The Dead Pool

Hemingway’s version goes like this:

Sing a song of critics
pockets full of lye
four and twenty critics
hope that you will die
hope that you will peter out
hope that you will fail
so they can be the first one
be the first to hail

Realism is the key to the whole production, from the posters for Hotel Satan (“You check in. You die.”) to the Chinatown robbery, where a remarkable amount of damage is inflicted on a cubbyhole restaurant.

The Dead Pool borrows a note from Irvin Kershner’s Never Say Never Again to emphasize the brawn of Harry Callahan, and this works the same way, setting up his carefully toned-down remarks (“Opinions are like assholes... You’re shit out of luck,” etc.) that indicate an off-duty, civilian response. Contrary to this is the flamboyant self-destructiveness of Johnny Squares mirrored by the man in the park who won’t make the eleven o’clock news. Even the two autograph hounds metamorphose into machine-gunning killers.

The function of the artist is to bear witness, be it said, which is why Callahan dispatches the maniac with a movie prop. Ebert is alive to the car-chase parody citing Bullitt (with a sort of Sergio Leone finish) and the imagery of a tiny remote-controlled car full of plastique. The theme appears in Play Misty for Me and Blood Work.

This is critically accorded a place among Van Horn’s by-blows, but The Dead Pool is steadily aware how seriously film critics are to be taken, in the end.


Pink Cadillac

Pink Cadillac is a very fast-moving and rapidly articulated comedy on a serious theme, which accounts for the critical stares in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. (Ebert notably had a hissy fit, which only shows how overwhelming the film is), but the structure is simple and clear, and London no doubt repents of its abstention.

After prefatory material which establishes among other things a close relation to Coogan’s Bluff, a skip tracer is put on the trail of a woman married to a no-good fallen in worse company, a gang of ex-cons passing phony money to finance a war camp in the piney woods. She has the real cash in her husband’s car, so the chase is twofold.

The camp suggests Blazing Saddles (and Magnum Force) in its false fronts and droll dummies. A romp through The Survivors for something like the sheer satisfaction of it, with a notable settling of scores all around.

Time will tell in these matters, it always does. Van Horn’s style is down-to-earth with a lot of English on the ball that leaves critics out, as a rule. Peters has been noticed by at least one astute member of the press, but none has remarked Eastwood’s rendition of William Hickey (who himself appears earlier in the film).