The Deadly Trackers (1973)

deadlytrackers_2Starring Richard Harris, Rod Taylor, Al Lettieri, Neville Brand, William Smith, Paul Benjamin, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., Isela Vega

Directed by Barry Shear

Expectations: None.

onehalfstar


The Deadly Trackers opens with a few minutes of still images introducing us to the town of Santa Rosa. Sometimes dialogue plays over these images, creating the feeling of recalling a memory through a series of photographs. The images also carry the texture of a painting or an old photograph. This intro drags on for quite a while, eventually introducing a group of bandits robbing the bank. If there was ever an opposite to the slam-bang, ball-grabbin’ Sam Fuller-style intro, this would be it.

Where the motion begins, though, becomes all the more jarring because of this slow run-up of still images. The leader of the bandits, Brand (Rod Taylor), shoots a bank clerk in the forehead and the film almost literally explodes into action. Is it possible to assume that if Sam Fuller had been allowed to make the film he would’ve just opened here? Probably not, but it would definitely be closer to his style than anything Barry Shear decided to do in The Deadly Trackers.

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Giant (1956)

giant_6Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, Rod Taylor, Judith Evelyn, Earl Holliman, Robert Nichols

Directed by George Stevens

Expectations: Low.

threestar


Giant is a Texas-themed soap opera about a cattle rancher named Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) who marries a Virginian girl named Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) while he’s in town buying a horse from Leslie’s father. When they return as husband and wife to Bick’s ranch Reata, Leslie doesn’t quite fit in with all the Texas bigots. This, surprisingly, becomes an overarching theme of the film, but you’ve gotta sit through a whole lot of Texas-sized movie before it ever pays off. And — spoiler alert — even that payoff is less satisfying than I’d have liked it to be. In a film this long (201 minutes!), is it too much to ask that we actually build toward something worth waiting for? I guess if I was a hard-hearted racist jerk, it’d take almost 3½ hours to get me to understand why the film ends as it does, but I was already on-board right from the get-go.

What’s strange about the length of Giant is that it’s an epic unconcerned with being epic. There are moments when it slips into epic mode, but for the most part it’s a fairly straightforward chronicle of 30–40 years in the Benedict family’s lives. So why is it as long as it is? The answer lies within the familial relationships of the Benedict family. Allowed extra space to breathe, Giant presents more nuanced and layered relationships than are usually seen in films — especially one from the ’50s. But even with its extended length, it still feels like it’s breezing through the years and could have easily been longer if it wanted to be.

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Dark of the Sun (1968)

Starring Rod Taylor, Jim Brown, Yvette Mimieux, Peter Carsten, Kenneth More, André Morell, Olivier Despax, Guy Deghy, Bloke Modisane, Calvin Lockhart, Alan Gifford, David Bauer

Directed by Jack Cardiff

Expectations: High, I’ve heard great things. This is a favorite of Scorsese and Tarantino as well.


The second movie this week that features a crazy ex-Nazi! I swear I didn’t plan it this way. Unlike Crawlspace though, Dark of the Sun is a lot more than just a crazy ex-Nazi film. It oozes style, machismo and gritty violence. Tarantino is a big fan of this one and after watching it, it’s no secret why. It’s remarkable that a film like this could even be made by a major studio in 1968, and as such feels a lot more like a big budget B-picture than a traditional studio film.

Rod Taylor and Jim Brown play a pair of mercenaries hired to take a steam train deep into the volatile Congo in order to rescue a town full of trapped European settlers… and $50 million in diamonds! They assemble a small force for the mission, a simple three-day job that requires with crackerjack timing if they are to avoid massive casualties. That’s ain’t the way it’s goin’ down for our steel-willed heroes though, is it?

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