Point Blank,
directed by John Boorman
(MGM, 1967)

The quintessential Lee Marvin movie, Point Blank still packs the punch of a lead slug after more than 40 years. Some highlights:

• The conversation between Marvin and Angie Dickinson with them both reflected in shards of broken mirror on the floor.

• The "fight" between Dickinson and Marvin in which he just stands there impassively while she whales on him.

• Johnny Mandel's eerie but lyrical score. You would never hear music like this in a crime movie today.

• The way the camera lingers on faces of characters who have no role in the movie, like the girl in the street where a body is lying or the girl at the next table in a coffee shop.

• The brutal punch-out behind the screen at a nightclub under the photo of a woman's horrified face on the screen. Marvin delivers a massive groin punch.

• Jump cuts, smash cuts, tilted angles, slanted shadows, slow pans. Do you speak French? Sid Haig (in a tiny role as a thug). Angie Dickinson nude! Those tracking shots of Marvin walking straight at us. The unstoppable force.

• Keenan Wynn's enigmatic role, which is revealed only at the end.

When this movie came out, it got almost no attention. Everyone was talking about Bonnie & Clyde. Marvin and Dickinson were well known, but director John Boorman was an unknown quantity. (It was years before he'd make Deliverance and shoot to fame). Carroll O'Connor (who steals almost every scene he's in) had yet to morph into Archie Bunker. This is John Vernon way before Dean Wormer.

Two lessons: Don't go near Angie Dickinson when she has a pool cue in her hand. And, if you shoot Lee Marvin, make damn sure he's dead.

More movies should be made of Donald E. Westlake's novels.

review by
Dave Sturm

6 November 2010

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