• Point Blank

    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: 7/12/2005
    Director: John Boorman
    Cast: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynne, Carroll O’Connor, Lloyd Bochner, Michael Strong, John Vernon
    Year: 1967
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    The Movie:

    Based on the novel The Hunter by Donald E. Westlake (as Richard Stark) and remade later in 1999 as the vastly inferior (but still entertaining) Payback with Mel Gibson in the lead, John Boorman’s Point Blank is a masterpiece of modern noir with a fantastic, understated performance from Lee Marvin.

    The stone faced and silver haired Marvin plays Walker – no first name needed, he’s simply Walker to everyone who knows him, even his own (former) sister in law. Walker’s friend, Mal Reese (John Vernon of The Outlaw Josey Wales), talks him into helping pull of a heist at the abandoned Alcatraz Prison off the coast of San Francisco. It should go over easy enough, or so he’s told, not realizing that he’s being setup (“Trust me Walker, trust me!”) and when the time comes, Reese and Walker’s own wife, Lynne (Sharon Acker of Happy Birthday To Me!), shoot him and leave him for dead.

    Cut to an unspecified amount of time later and Walker and a man named Yost (Keenan Wynn of Clonus) who we presume is a cop are having a little talk about those past events. Walker wants revenge, and he wants his $93,000 that was supposed to be his cut of the take, while the cop wants to take down The Organization – a criminal group that Reese has connections to. Walker goes to pay Lynne a little visit and ends up following the trail from her to Reese and all the way up to the upper echelon of The Organization until he finds someone who will finally pay him what he feels he’s owed. His wife’s sister, Chris (the lovely Angie Dickinson of Don Siegel’s The Killers) will provide some reluctant help along the way, but Walker’s bound and very determined to get his revenge his way and on his terms.

    Peppered with some moments of shocking violence, Point Blank benefits from the immeasurable screen presence of Lee Marvin in the lead role. Those who are familiar only with some of his campier action films (Delta Force comes to mind) would be doing themselves a huge favor checking this one out where he is as cold and steely eyed as you can get, merciless in his quest. The character of Walker is almost spectral at times, he’s very ghost like with the ability to slide in and out of the film without explanation. How did he end up in the boat with Yost? How did he survive the multiple gun shot wounds to the torso? What’s his first name? There are a lot of unanswered questions about Walker that are never answered, and in the context of Boorman’s film they don’t need to be as he’s truly an otherworldly character and Lee Marvin not only fits the role perfectly but he makes it look easy.

    The supporting cast is also excellent. Angie Dickinson proves she’s got what it takes especially when she breaks down towards the end of the film, after her relationship with him takes on a more physical tone. Her outburst, when it happens, is a long time coming and Walker’s response is predictably stalwart. John Vernon’s turn as the sleazy snake, Reese, is also excellent. When Walker confronts him in what he believes to be his safe and secure penthouse apartment, you can see the fear in his eyes, which later turns tot hatred – inexplicable hatred, considering how it was he who wronged Walker and not the other way around – but hatred none the less. Attentive viewers should be able to pick out a young Sid Haig (House Of 1,000 Corpses, Spider Baby) as one of The Organization’s henchmen. It’s weird seeing him with so much hair. Look for Carroll O’Connor of All In The Family Fame in here as well, who does a fine job as one of the higher-ups in the crime syndicate.

    The cinematography by the late Philip Lathrop (of The Killer Elite) is startling and beautiful all at the same time. The camera movements are subtle and strange and perfectly capture the mood that the sparse moments of dialogue, eerie soundtrack, and bizarre characters serve to create.


    Warner Brothers has given Point Blank an excellent 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that truly does the film justice. The colors come through perfectly and there’s a fantastic level of both foreground and background detail present throughout the entire duration of the film. Black levels stay deep and strong and don’t break up or pixelate at all and there are no problems whatsoever with mpeg compression artifacts.

    There are a couple of scenes with some very minor line shimmering but print damage is never a problem and aside from the odd speck here and there, and some mild but natural looking grain, the picture on this release is damn near perfect. The scene where Walker handles his assailants at the nightclub, with the oily swirls projected across Lee Marvin’s face looks fantastic and the bizarre color scheme used in some very specific moments of the film comes through very nicely indeed.

    There’s an English language Dolby Digital Mono track, and a French language Dolby Digital Mono track. Optional subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish. Don’t bother with the French track, unless you’re French and you can’t read subtitles for some reason, as you’ll want to hear the actors’ real voices. As far as the quality of this track goes, for an almost forty-year-old Mono mix, there’s very little to complain about. If you really listen for it you might pick up a bit of hiss in the background of a few scenes but you’re going to have to be straining for it as it’s so minor it’s almost not even there. Dialogue is clean and clear and reasonably crisp for an older track. This mix isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind but it gets the job done just fine without any problems at all.

    First up is a full length running commentary with director John Boorman, moderated by director Steven Soderbergh, who states Point Blank as a huge influence on his work, most notably The Limey. This commentary track is a pretty interesting listen as Soderbergh keeps Boorman talking and reminiscing throughout the discussion. Boorman spends a lot of time covering the preproduction aspects, how they decided to bring the book to life, what it was like with Marvin on board and some of the other casting decisions. Soderbergh takes the time to quiz Boorman on some of the more unusual aspects about the film’s visuals as well, some of the more unorthodox shots, the colors, the angles, etc., and Boorman proves that his memory is pretty sharp with his responses which answer pretty much all of Soderbergh’s questions down to the letter. While at times this feels more like an audio interview than an actual commentary track, it works really nicely and gives us considerable insight into the making of the movie.

    Next up are two featurettes on Alcatraz entitled The Rock Part 1 and The Rock Part 2. With a combined running time of about sixteen minutes, these give us an all too brief history of the prison through some archival clips and a few interviews with a couple of men who did time there while it was still a functioning prison.

    Rounding out the extra features is the film’s original theatrical trailer.

    The Final Word:

    Honestly, I’d have liked to see a little more in the extra features department but the commentary is great and the featurette is interesting. Warner Brothers have given us very little to complain about quality wise as Point Blank looks and sounds great on this DVD. Consider this one an essential addition to anyone’s collection.
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Nolando's Avatar
      Nolando -
      Boorman's commentary tracks are usually pretty insightful. And I freaking adore this movie.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      It needs a Blu-ray release in a big way. The DVD is good, but this could look outstanding in HD.