Retro-View: QT lll Fest – Gangster Films

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Friday at the Alamo. Feels good to be a gangsta after work with cash in the pocket amid a film orgy weekend. Grab an espresso at Ruta Maya. Bethany is here with me again, prepared to brave the cinematic trio of sex and bullets. Tomorrow will be the final fling of QT III, an All Nite Horror Marathon. I feel a little sad already. My friend from Ion Storm, Clay, shows up with his date. We sit and watch the kitsch parade of TV ads and trailers (my favorites are available on this disc). I order the pizza; I’ve waited long enough gawdammit.

Quentin bops out to cheers and applause; it’s definitely Friday Night Lights. He starts to go into his take on the scheduled gangster films when a very drunk couple near the front row start yelling for him to “stop talking and show the movie.” It’s clear they have wandered seemingly blitzed from a Sixth Street bar or two, with little idea who Tarantino is. Then the crowd gets a taste of QT in action as he steps to the edge of the stage and says, “I think the audience would like you to shut the fuck up, alright?” The crowd applauds. The couple yell more stupid drunk shit out to him. Quentin, with a devil smile on his face, looks ready to leap onto them. Instead, he launches into a prolonged verbal bitch-slap to all our vocal delight. They slink out soonafter. A fascinating moment to see him handle and humble two obnoxious assholes. Like a good director should.

After that bit of excitement, the crowd is keyed for THE BONNIE PARKER STORY, directed by William Witney. This little gem from 1958 is an AIP black and white odd re-telling of the Bonnie and Clyde legend that turns the 1930 robbers into 50’s JD at the jukebox types. Dorothy Provine is the tough pretty face with a loaded machine gun she’s not afraid to use. I enjoyed this one quite a bit and Provine’s performance is really something else. The festival is off to a rousing criminal start.

4351731020aNext up is one I’ve always wanted to see, 1978’s THE LADY IN RED (aka GUNS, SIN AND BATHTUB GIN) directed by ALLIGATOR’s Lewis Teague, written by John Sayles, another one of his terrific scripts for Roger Corman. Seriously, If this screenplay had been picked up by a studio, they coulda put Jane Fonda in this. The story has a feminist perspective on John Dillinger’s infamous woman who joined him in a life of big crime. She eventually led the Feds to his final resting place, outside a Chicago movie theater. How apropos…

Pamela Sue Martin turns in a gutsy performance and Robert Conrad is Dillinger, who is portrayed as a surprisingly decent mug to his moll. Sayles weaves in some subversive union and sexual politics amid his nifty plot twists and turns. Even AIP vet Dick Miller shows up along with Robert Forster, as a gunman who turns out to be one of the Lady’s benefactors. This was a sure crowd pleaser and one of the best films I saw during the festival. I’d love to see John Sayles crank out another low budget exploitation screenplay.

lmsAround midnight, Tarantino came out to intro Walter Hill’s LAST MAN STANDING. He was very enthused about the film and thought it was an overlooked classic. He passed on a personal message from Walter Hill thanking us and hoping we enjoy the film, which was cool. The 1994 film is a remake of YOJIMBO, set in the dusty 30’s, with Bruce Willis as the mysterious stranger who comes to a small crooked town to clean up. While there are a few exciting gun battles, I found LMS a little overwrought, too stoic and I didn’t like the on-the-nose narration: after we see a gangster mowed down by circle of machine-gun firing men, Willis says, “It was a massacre.” Well, it didn’t look like a speakeasy. But Hill always knows how to stage and edit tight, tough action scenes.

After the screening, I talk with Quentin and others, and mention that I thought the narration in LAST MAN STANDING was like Ford’s in BLADE RUNNER, explaining what you were seeing. Quentin swept his hand like an axe and said, “If you think the narration in this is like the narration in BLADE RUNNER, I think you are one-hundred percent, totally wrong.” And he told tell me why. Another fun movie night at the Alamo over.

And only one day left…one day until the MEN, WOMEN & CHAINSAWS Horror Marathon…

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6 Responses to “Retro-View: QT lll Fest – Gangster Films”

  1. All three of these have their charms, even Last Man Standing. The Bonnie Parker Story and The Lady in Red are delightful for all of the reasons to which you point.

    The narration in Last Man Standing is so stoic and self-important, I can’t help but like it. The moment you write of, where he says, “It was a massacre,” makes me grin just thinking about it. It’s the weak sister in the Yojimbo-Fistful-of-Dollars lineage, however, even with Christopher Walken being crazy.

  2. And that Tarantino bit verbally smacking those two drunks down is fantastic.

  3. I really wish some savvy publisher wold put out a book of Sayles exploitation scripts. Wouldn’t a volume of THE HOWLING; PIRHANA; THE LADY IN RED; BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS look fantastic next to a volume with MATEWAN; LONE STAR; LIMBO…

  4. christian Says:

    I’m on it.

  5. […] at a steady 90, blaring the GET CARTER soundtrack, on the short way home …to get in the mind of Gangster Films for tomorrow’s […]

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