One of the most misleading movie posters in history.
SAINT JACK (1979) – Directed by Peter Bogdanovich and based on the novel by Paul Theroux, this movie is almost impossible to categorize. The Coen Brothers once said their film Barton Fink defied genre assignment, and if so then the same can be said for Saint Jack. It’s part gangster movie, part expat slice of life, part sex comedy and part failed political commentary. Kinda Hot, a book about the guerilla making of Saint Jack is loaded with even more sex and drama than the film itself.
Before I move on to story details, let me also point out how the creative forces behind the movie may well represent the most unlikely alliance imaginable. It’s produced by Roger Corman and directed by Peter Bogdanovich by way of his then-girlfriend Cybill Shepherd’s snagging of the novel’s film rights as part of a legal settlement with Playboy magazine. Oddest of all, Shepherd wanted the film rights ever since reading the Paul Theroux novel on the recommendation of … Orson Welles. And this was long before Welles appeared on Moonlighting with Cybill. Continue reading
PRIME CUT (1972) – Directed by Michael Ritchie. Prime Cut was released less than 4 months after The Godfather but it’s difficult to think of two more different gangster films. And I say that as a good thing. Prime Cut is not trying for the epic, operatic scope of The Godfather, it’s just a fairly solid street-level gangster flick with a few admittedly silly action sequences.
The Chicago Syndicate bosses are being disrespected by a subordinate Kansas boss who is itching to break out from under their thumb and take complete control of his own little empire. Part of that figurative declaration of independence took the form of not sending the Chicago boys their required tribute.
The Windy City mob sent a tough-guy “negotiator” to try leaning on the Kansas rebel only to have that Jayhawk State gangster take things to the next level by having the tough-guy killed, then literally ground into hot dog meat. Adding insult to injury the Kansas boss sent the hot dogs/ bodily remains of the negotiator back to Chicago in the package they were supposed to use to send their tribute money.
Chicago’s response is to send four button men under the command of one of their coldest, most hard-assed enforcers, to Kansas to bring the upstart back into line by whatever means prove necessary. Much bloodshed ensues, with butchery and slaughterhouses of all kinds reflecting the title theme.
The characters: Continue reading
SUPERFLY (1972) – While unfairly pigeonholed as a blaxploitation movie Superfly is in reality a monumentally overlooked classic of American gangster films.
Some of the blame for the lack of respect accorded this cinematic masterpiece comes from the outrageous movie posters that make it look like standard blaxploitation fare to modern film viewers. In reality Superfly pioneered some of the story elements that other blaxploitation flicks would turn into laughable cliches with their incessant repetition.
Another obstacle to celluloid respectability is the title, which became synonymous with the lead character, played masterfully by Ron O’Neal. Actually, O’Neal’s character is named Youngblood Priest. “Superfly” was the adjective used to describe the high quality of the cocaine Priest pushed to his customers, as in the line of dialogue “Priest, you sell some superfly shit!” Continue reading