Peter Falk as Charlie Adamo, ambitious gangster
San Francisco and Las Vegas, Summer 1968
Film: Machine Gun McCain
(Italian title: Gli intoccabili)
Release Date: April 1, 1969
Director: Giuliano Montaldo
Costume Designer: Enrico Sabbatini
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Born 96 years ago today on September 16, 1927, Peter Falk may be best remembered as the rumpled but indefatigable Lieutenant Columbo (to the extent that his September 16th is also observed as “Wrinkled Raincoat Day”), but Falk spending most of his screen time wearing a handsomely tailored tuxedo in the 1969 Italian crime film Machine Gun McCain illustrates how the Bronx-born actor could clean up well. (And yes, I do plan on writing about Falk’s iconic wardrobe in Columbo someday!)
Released in Italy as Gli intoccabili (translated to “The Untouchables”) and based on the Ovid Demaris novel Candyleg, Machine Gun McCain joins the subject of my prior post as a prime example of poliziottesco, an Italian crime subgenre that emerged during the nation’s violent “Years of Lead” era and typified by corruption, violence, cynicism… and American lead actors. In this case, Falk was joined by his pal and frequent collaborator John Cassavetes, who portrays the eponymous ex-bank robber opposite Falk as gangster Charlie Adamo. Continue reading
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Josselin “Joss” Beaumont, vengeful French secret agent specializing in “espionage and brawls”
Paris, Spring 1981
Film: The Professional
(French title: Le Professionnel)
Release Date: October 21, 1981
Director: Georges Lautner
Costume Designer: Paulette Breil
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today would have been the 90th birthday of Jean-Paul Belmondo, the prolific and popular French star who rose to fame during the New Wave cinematic movement in movies like Breathless and Pierrot le Fou before he was established as a dynamic hero of action and adventure movies. Belmondo actually appeared in a 1984 movie titled Happy Easter, but—despite the egg-cellent holiday today—let’s refocus to three years earlier and Bébel’s iconic action role in The Professional, released in France as Le Professionnel. Continue reading
Roddy Piper as “Nada”, tough drifter and anti-alien vigilante
Los Angeles, Spring 1988
Film: They Live
Release Date: November 4, 1988
Director: John Carpenter
Costume Supervisor: Robin Michel Bush
Released on this day in 1988, They Live followed the example of most of John Carpenter’s work by finding a cult following considerably after it came out, though it debuted at the top of the North American box office.
Adapted from Ray Nelson’s 1963 short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning”, They Live stars Canadian-born wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as an unnamed drifter who arrives in Los Angeles looking for work… and finds a box of sunglasses that literally open his eyes to the fact that an alien ruling class has been subliminally manipulating the public to conform, consume, and reproduce. Continue reading
John Saxon as Donald Thompson, police lieutenant
Suburban Ohio, Spring 1981
Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Release Date: November 9, 1984
Director: Wes Craven
Costume Designer: Dana Lyman
A decade after he investigated a series of grisly sorority murders at Christmastime, John Saxon again portrayed a police lieutenant chasing down a serial killer in Wes Craven’s horror classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
We meet Lieutenant Thompson when he’s called to the station late at night in response to the murder of his daughter’s friend Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss). Thompson’s police colleagues initially suspect Tina’s meathead boyfriend, the “lunatic delinquent” Rod Lane (Nick Corri). Rod doesn’t help his case by fleeing the scene, but a tearful Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) explains to her father that it couldn’t have been Rod.
Thompson has little reason to believe his daughter’s protestations, but we the audience know that Tina’s brutal slashing was the work of the disfigured spirit of the long-dead child murderer Freddy Kreuger. Continue reading
John Wayne as Lon “McQ” McHugh, taciturn Seattle PD lieutenant
Seattle, Fall 1973
Release Date: February 6, 1974
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Luster Bayless
Today marks the birthday of John Wayne, the American icon who reinvented his half-century image as a stalwart of Westerns and war movies by taking on a duo of contemporary cop roles, beginning with McQ in 1974 and followed up with Brannigan the following year.
Born May 26, 1907, Duke was over 60 as he watched younger stars like Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood steal the action movie thunder with urban-set police thrillers. While McQueen’s impressive wheelmanship would be incorporated into McQ, it was the “shoot first, ask later” style of Eastwood’s Dirty Harry that particularly resonated with the old-school star as the opening sequence of McQ finds Duke’s rugged Seattle detective foiling a dockside hitman with his own six-shooter. Continue reading
James Garner as Philip Marlowe, cynical private detective
Los Angeles, Spring 1969
Release Date: October 22, 1969
Director: Paul Bogart
Costume Design: Florence Hackett & James Taylor
Save for a single season of a loosely adapted ABC TV series, he character of Philip Marlowe had gone more than two decades without a cinematic portrayal at the time Marlowe was released in 1969. Directed by the appropriately named Paul Bogart (no relation), this adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s 1949 pulp novel The Little Sister updated the setting to contemporary Los Angeles.
James Garner took some criticism for his take on the famous private eye, but I think the likable actor’s vulnerable sincerity works for his interpretation of Chandler’s anti-hero. Continue reading
Several requests for a breakdown of Tyler Durden’s style have thus led to this post which Tyler himself would certainly tell himself that he hates – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden, soapmaker, fight club leader, and urban terrorist
Wilmington, Delaware, Spring 1999
Film: Fight Club
Release Date: October 15, 1999
Director: David Fincher
Costume Designer: Michael Kaplan
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
“We are a nation of physical animals who have forgotten how much we enjoy being that. We are cushioned by this kind of make-believe, unreal world, and we have no idea what we can survive because we are never challenged or tested,” is how Chuck Palahniuk summed up his intent for writing Fight Club, the 1995 novel that inspired the David Fincher-directed cult film. Fincher’s darker-than-black comedic adaptation of the novel staggered audiences upon its first release, reviled for its graphic violence and messaging that was misinterpreted as criticisms against both feminism and hyper-masculinity. Continue reading