• Machine Gun McCain

    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: 8/24/2010
    Director: Guiliano Montaldo
    Writer: Mino Roli
    Cast: John Cassavetes, Britt Ekland, Peter Falk, Gabriele Ferzetti, Florinda Bolkan, Tony Kendall, Luigi Pistilli
    Year: 1969
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Guiliano Montaldo in 1969 and starring John Cassavetes in the lead role, Machine Gun McCain stars an interesting cast of supporting characters, tells a pretty rock solid story of crime and revenge, and features a catchy score from Ennio Morricone.

    Cassavetes plays Hank ‘Machine Gun’ McCain, a mobster whose nickname stems from his weapon of choice who, at the beginning of the film, has just been let out of jail thanks to the meddling influence of a gang boss named Charlie Adamo (Peter Falk) who hopes to enlist his aid in pulling off a big job. To convince McCain to come along, Adamo has coerced his son, Jack (Pierluigi Apra) to work the old man for him. So what’s this big job Adamo’s scheming over? He wants to knock over a big time Las Vegas casino called The Royal Hotel – that is, until Adamo learns that the Royal Hotel is owned by a rival mobster named Don Francesco DeMarco (Gabriele Ferzetti).

    McCain, however, has other ideas up his sleeve. He wants to pursue the heist whether Adamo is in on it or not, even if his own son’s life hangs in the balance. All of this danger and scheming doesn’t put a damper on McCain’ libido either – he’s all man, as proven when he horridly marries foxy blonde nightclub fixture Irene Tucker (Britt Ekland). With his woman at his side and his machine gun primed and ready, McCain decides to go rogue and pull of the heist despite increasing pressure from everyone else involved.

    Those with an affinity for the ‘Old Vegas Strip’ as it appears on the silver screen will love the way Guiliano Montaldo uses some fantastic location footage in this film. As in the recent Grindhouse release of Duke Mitchell’s Gone With The Pope, this film really maximizes the lights, glitz, glamour and almost otherworldly atmosphere that Nevada’s real life sin city can provide as a backdrop. Throw in some effective scenes shot in New York and San Francisco as well and you can easily see how Machine Gun McCain is going to look great either way. On top of that, the film really does benefit immensely from a great cast. Supporting roles from Italian cinema regulars like Ferzetti, Luigi Pistilli, Tony Kendell and Florinda Bolkan are welcome but seeing Falk and Cassavetes get to strut their collective stuff as they do here is the real reason to watch this one. Stopping just short of going too far, Cassavetes gives a fairly seething performance, letting that element of danger and uncertainty that flavors his best work bubble up just enough while Falk plays the calmer, more concerned of the two with completely believable weakness.

    Wrap all of this up with a few stand out set pieces, including a surprisingly violent opening sequence, and one of Morricone’s deliriously bizarre scores and you’ve got a pretty impressive picture. Montaldo really couldn’t have asked for a better cast and those he worked with behind the camera put just as much effort into this as those in front of it, making it all the more remarkable that this picture has remained as obscure as it has over the years. Thankfully Blue Underground remedies that with this Blu-ray release.


    Blue Underground’s AVC encoded 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p high definition transfer is very nice indeed. There aren’t any issues with any heavy print damage though a welcome coat of grain is present throughout. Color reproduction is very strong, the pop art stylings of certain scenes really springing out off of the screen, while skin tones look lifelike and natural. Black levels are inky deep while reds we well pronounced without looking oversaturated. Detail levels and texture levels are both very good for an older picture, and there are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement to note.

    The only audio option on this disc is a DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track, but it sounds quite good. The opening theme song in particular (which will stick in your head for days after hearing it) has a nice amount of macho strength to it while the dialogue and sound effects are all properly balanced against Morricone’s excellent score. There aren’t any problems with hiss or distortion to complain about and generally things sound just fine. Optional subtitles are offered in English SDH, French and Spanish.

    The biggest and best of the extras on the disc is a twenty-two minute interview with director Guiliano Montaldo, who is quite gracious and enthusiastic. Here he discusses not only Machine Gun McCain and working with Cassavetes but also other films he made over the course of the years, such as Grand Slam. His memory is quite sharp and his stories about Cassavetes essentially feeling him out as a director are quite interesting.

    Aside from that, look for US and International theatrical trailers, a spiffy menu and some chapter stops.

    The Final Word:

    A really well made crime film with an excellent lead performance from the great John Cassavetes, Machine Gun McCain receives and appropriately swanky Blu-ray debut from Blue Underground.