Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Film Review: ST. IVES (1976, J. Lee Thompson)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 94 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Charles Bronson, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Englund, Maximilian Schell, John Houseman, Jacqueline Bisset, Harry Guardino, Elisha Cook, Jr. Music by Lalo Schifrin.
Tag-lines: "He's clean. He's mean. He's the go-between."
Best one-liner: "What are the odds in the Rams-Dallas game?"

Raymond St. Ives. Layabout, writer, gambler, and all-around classy dude.

Bronson could totally host 'Masterpiece Theater.'

Tagline says "He's clean, he's mean, he's the go-between." He sleeps in late and (on the poster at least) lights his pipe with $100 bills. Not sure why he does that, since he suffers from debilitating financial difficulties. In fact, he's so behind on his bills, up to his ears in gambling debt, and is suffering writer's block, he decides to act as the bagman for some shady characters who are enduring some Raymond Chandler-esque blackmail.

A grown man sleeping in till noon- what is the world coming to.

Well, Charles Bronson is Raymond St. Ives, and the film's a well-made Noir in the same vein as the Bob Mitchum Marlowe movies that popped up around the same time. Of course it's the type of (70's) noir that's chock full of wood paneling, olive green carpet, and light brown neckties. It's also Bronson's first of 9 collaborations with director J. Lee Thompson (CAPE FEAR, DEATH WISH 4).

Bronson is in top form.

Even seven Bronsons are not enough.

He gets tossed down an elevator shaft by Jeff Goldblum and Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund, climbs back up, and kicks their asses. At one point, Bronson has to swallow his pride and feign OCD in order to secure the proper restroom stall for a hand-off. Must've been rough on him. The supporting cast is solid: Maxmilian Schell is a zany German psychiatrist; John Houseman channels Sydney Greenstreet; and Jacqueline Bisset's the neo-femme fatale. Lalo Schifrin provides a score that's more than reminiscent of his work on DIRTY HARRY. And a man gets thrown from the window of a high-rise, which leads me to wonder if that's written into Bronson's contract.

It happens in nearly every Bronson movie (STONE KILLER, DEATH WISH 2,3,&4, etc., etc.)- maybe Charlie just loved the sight of dummies spiraling to their doom. Or maybe I'm crazy. Annnyway, it all ends on an awkward freeze frame punchline, then cuts to ANOTHER freeze frame, this one of Bronson eerily smiling. Nicely done, St. Ives. Splendid. Four stars.

-Sean Gill

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