Released by: Shout! Factory
Released on: 12/13/2011
Director: Robert Mulligan/John Frankenheimer
Cast: various (see review)
Purchase from Amazon
Shout! Factory hands over another “Action Double Feature” set, featuring two films from the mid-1970s on two discs. The lead characters in both films have something in common, and that’s the fact that they each work for an organized crime syndicate. Other than that, they’re pretty different movies.
The Nickel Ride
(1975) dir. Robert Mulligan; starring Jason Miller, Linda Haynes, Victor French, John Hillerman, Bo Hopkins.
Jason Miller (The Exorcist
) plays the “key man”, so called because of the large key ring he carries to unlock the numerous warehouses he manages for the mob. They need a place to store their stolen merchandise, and are running out of room. Cooper (Miller) is working on securing an entire block of warehouses and is negotiating with the police on a payoff price so the cops will leave them alone.
Meanwhile, Cooper’s boss Carl (John Hillerman, Magnum P.I.
) wants to keep his eyes on the key man because he’s nervous about him not coming through, so he sends Turner (Bo Hopkins, The Wild Bunch
) to work with Cooper. Turner, a slick country boy, rubs Cooper the wrong way and he doesn’t like the kid from get go. Things aren’t quite falling into place for Cooper and his big deal, and he becomes worried for his safety, and the safety of his girl (Linda Haynes).
This one’s a pretty slow burner that plays out differently than the trailer portrays. Its not so much an action piece as it is a character study. Miller’s role goes from confident and controlled to paranoid and flustered, as he worries his employer is out to get him. Miller is really good in his part, showing Cooper’s good side as well as his “don’t mess with me” side. Not only is Miller’s performance great, but so are the other main players. It’s a well-acted movie.
The film has a nice look, with that great 70s vibe to it, and the overall attitude of the movie is noir-ish. The pacing might turn some people off though, as it takes a long time for anything to really happen. But for those who enjoy 70s crime dramas this shouldn’t be an issue. What the film has to offer far outweighs what it doesn’t. And this being Miller’s second film acting role, it interesting to see his performance right on the heels of his most famous one as Father Karras. What a great screen presence he had.
99 and 44/100% Dead!
(1975) dir. John Frankenheimer; starring Richard Harris, Edmond O’Brien, Bradford Dillman, Ann Turkel, Chuck Connors.
Hitman Harry Crown (Richard Harris) is hired by Uncle Frank (Edmond O’Brien), the city’s crime boss, to kill the boss of a gang taking too much away from O’Brien. The opposition, Big Eddie (Bradford Dillman) has Harry Crown’s nemesis on his payroll, one “Claw” Zuckeman (Chuck Connors), and that’s going to cause some problems. Claw has it out for Harry ever since Harry caused Claw to lose his hand. Now he has a hook for a hand, which can be changed out for other weapons and items.
Crown gets hooked up with an old flame, Buffy (Ann Turkel), and things get pretty sour between them, until Claw get his mitts on her and Crown wants to get her back. Added to the mix of people is a young up-and-comer that Uncle Frank has working with Harry. Tony (Zooey Hall…Zooey??) is a slick dressing thug who Harry takes a bit of a shine to, as does a young prostitute named Baby (Kathrine Baumann), who also falls into the hands of Claw. So it becomes a race to save the ladies, kill the bad guys, and get out of dodge.
If the worst movie title of the year isn’t an indicator of oddness of this movie, then maybe the opening credits will give you a hint, delivering a cool pop-art sequence with Henry Mancini music. And if that doesn’t clue you in, then maybe the first scene will win you over. It involves one of the most bizarre and grotesquely peaceful graveyards you bound to ever see.
From beginning to end this movie it’s got a strangeness to it that has to be seen to be appreciated. Top of the heap, acting-wise, is Richard Harris, who is just awesome in this movie as an eccentric and far-sighted assassin. So what if he’s got the second worst hairdo ever donned by a hitman? He’s still an A-list badass and he knows it. And Chuck Connors deserves some credit too, giving a performance that’s more comedic than intimidating, but he still brings an element of sleaze to the roll, despite his acting limitations.
The pacing in this one starts to drag a bit in spots, but to those not looking for start to finish kinetic energy shouldn’t mind too much. There’s plenty to look at and drink in, from some great underwater sequences to interesting cinematography, to cute girls. The story doesn’t really keep you guessing as to how it all ends up (which plays out like a made-for-tv movie), but it should keep you wondering what the heck is up with some of the elements this one brings to the game.
Both movies are given to the fans by Shout! with new anamorphic transfers. The box copy states they have an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, but these are both 2.35:1, which is the original aspect of both. They look excellent and offer plenty of grain. The image is clear and pleasing, with no signs of noise reduction. The colors really come through nicely and there’s good shadow detail. Not much by way of print damage can be seen. No authoring issues were noticed. The audio on each is a 2.0 Dolby Digital track, which does the job just as it needs to. Voices are clear and the music isn’t distorted. Nothing fancy but it sounds just fine.
Not much for extras. Each disc has the feature and a trailer (two trailers for 99 44/100% Dead
) and the inside of the DVD cover displays the full movie posters.
The Final Word:
Neither one of these movies will probably make too many Top 10 Movies of the 1970s lists, and neither director walked away from the chair proclaiming these to be their best films ever, but they are both entertaining, well-made. The image looks excellent, and although there’s not much for supplemental material, these are two movies that deserve attention. The set is well worth picking up.