Color, 1973, 91 mins. 15 secs.
Directed by Tom Gries
Starring Donald Sutherland, Jennifer O'Neill, Robert Duvall, Patrick Magee, Jon Cypher, Eric Braeden
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9), VCI (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)
Made at the height of Donald Sutherland's stardom tucked between such films as Klute and Don't Look Now, this modest but enjoyable little caper film is a stab at frothy Hitchcockian fun relying heavily on his chemistry with Jennifer O'Neill, the glamorous star of Summer of '42. Both of them would experience wildly uneven careers after this, but the film offers a pleasant opportunity to see both of them surrounded by an impressive slate of character actors even if the production itself was more than a little rocky.
After arriving at the Miami airport, Andy Hammon (Sutherland) promptly holds up a Chicago stooge at gunpoint in his hotel room and, by handcuffing him to a toilet lid, takes off with a stolen diamond necklace currently making the rounds on the black market. Next thing he's posing as a mechanic to get close to fencer Paul Booth (Magee) but ends up hitting it off with his beautiful, sassy daughter, Paula (O'Neill). That's just the beginning though as Andy gets roped in by investigator Ford Pierce (Duvall) to intervene in a jewelry racket that's claiming the lives of those transporting the hot rocks, with players involved including Eddie Stell (Cypher). Car chases, double crosses, swanky parties, scuba diving, and a Nassau boat showdown ensue.
Featuring "diamonds and jewels by Neiman Marcus" and Gucci fashions, this is one slick film even if it seems to actually evaporate right in front of your eyes. The script co-written by lawyer-turned-screenwriter Alan Trustman was obviously meant to recapture the same flair as his earlier The Thomas Crown Affair, reportedly overhauled many times in the hands of Tomorrow Entertainment, a subsidiary of General Electric responsible for a slew of made-for-TV films like Born Innocent and Gargoyles. In fact, many have mistaken this one for a TV project over the years primarily because so few people actually had a chance to see it on the big screen in the first place. That's a shame as its main asset is the slick, sparkling cinematography by Lucien Ballard, a Hollywood vet since the '30s who excelled at expansive scope framing in films like The Proud Ones, A Kiss Before Dying, and The Wild Bunch. By this point he was taking on some really unexpected assignments like What's the Matter with Helen? and Drum, but he had also formed a solid rapport with director Tom Gries, who cut his teeth on many TV shows before moving on to such films as Will Penny, 100 Rifles, and The Hawaiians (followed by two solid Charles Bronson offerings, Breakout and Breakheart Pass). This film may still be a footnote in both of their careers, but it's still a pleasant and painless way to kill an hour and a half.
Unfortunately home video was really brutal to this film over the years including a handful of unwatchable VHS editions and a very disappointing VCI DVD in 2005 with the wide Panavision compositions chopped down to 1.33:1 apart from the opening and closing titles. (It's also worth noting the final scene has some of the most widely mocked forced laughter this side of an episode of CHiPS). To say that the 2018 Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing is an upgrade would be a severe understatement as it truly makes this feel like a whole different film. The restoration of the full compositions really enhances the landscapes and overall production quality that were buried on TV before, and the colors are really vibrant and beautiful throughout. The DTS-HD MA English mono track is also satisfying with optional English SDH subtitles offered as well. A new video interview with composer Perry Botkin Jr. (12m23s) touches on his approach to the film relying mainly on that punchy, TV-style main theme to drive things before the days of doing demo scores to work things out for the director. He also touches on his colorful career including collaborations with Harry Nilsson and his "pop rock arranger" status in the industry. It also features some painful pan-and-scan footage from the old transfer if you want to see just how awful this movie used to look. Also included are trailers for The Psychic, Puppet on a Chain, Aloha Bobby and Rose, Conduct Unbecoming, Doctor Death and Where the Boys Are '84.
Reviewed on December 5, 2018.
Color, 1973, 91 mins. 15 secs.