Tag Archives: Ben Johnson

Hustle (1975, Robert Aldrich)

Leonard Maltin calls Hustle pretentious. I think he’s referring to the spotlights Aldrich shines in people’s faces for close-ups. I think Maltin’s wrong about those shots and their pretense. Aldrich isn’t being pretentious, he’s just totally incompetent when it comes to directing a movie like Hustle.

But I’m not talking about the story content–it’s a really poorly written character study of Burt Reynolds’s uncaring cop and Catherine Denueve as his call girl girlfriend–but the production. Ernest Borgnine plays Reynold’s boss (the movie’s hilariously loose with police ranks and their responsibilities) and through Borgnine’s office windows is the city of Los Angeles. Well, a picture of the city. In black and white. Clearly in black and white.

The movie looks like it was shot on a bunch of cheap TV sets, with Joseph F. Biroc’s cinematography less artful than episode of the Adam West “Batman” show. It’s not all Biroc’s fault, Aldrich doesn’t have a good shot in the film. It looks like he’s directing a poorly budgeted television show, one with a great cast and an awful script.

As the leads, I guess Reynolds and Denueve aren’t terrible. When Hustle is just the two of them sitting around the sitcom set they call home, it’s just this incredibly boring character piece. It’s like a misfired play, but it’s not awful. Once they leave, however… trouble begins.

Worst is Ben Johnson in some ways–he’s almost good, but his character is so poorly written, he’s awful.

Hustle stinks.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Robert Aldrich; screenplay by Steve Shagan, based on his novel; director of photography, Joseph F. Biroc; edited by Michael Luciano; music by Frank De Vol; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Burt Reynolds (Lieutenant Phil Gaines), Catherine Deneuve (Nicole Britton), Ben Johnson (Marty Hollinger), Paul Winfield (Sergeant Louis Belgrave), Eileen Brennan (Paula Hollinger), Eddie Albert (Leo Sellers), Ernest Borgnine (Santuro), Jack Carter (Herbie Dalitz), Colleen Brennan (Gloria Hollinger), James Hampton (Bus Driver), David Spielberg (Bellamy) and Catherine Bach (Peggy Summers).


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The Swarm (1978, Irwin Allen), the director’s cut

I had the misfortune of trying to watch Irwin Allen’s director’s cut of The Swarm. As I understand it, Allen’s director’s cut simply adds a half hour of terrible dialogue, completely overshadowing the killer bee aspect of the film.

I’m not sure how much better a shorter version of the film would really… ahem… be, given Allen is still directing it and Michael Caine is still the star.

I’m fairly sure I’ve called some terrible director or another the worst Panavision director ever–not counting anyone who made a film after 1994 or so–but Allen might be the new king of terrible Panavision direction. He doesn’t waste the wide frame, however; no, Allen doesn’t understand the concept of head room. I kept waiting for someone to hit his or her head on the top of the frame.

Caine’s “performance” is a particular gem. It might actually be (sorry) Caine’s worst performance and given Caine’s tendency to give awful performances, it’s an achievement.

The supporting cast has high and low points. Anyone good is visibly embarrassed, anyone bad is just bad. Except Ben Johnson. He somehow is both good and earnest.

Katharine Ross is particularly mortified, while Richard Widmark’s performance suggests he’s really looking forward to the swimming pool his paycheck is buying.

Jerry Goldsmith’s score is awful, maybe some of the worst earlier Goldsmith I can remember. Lots of The Swarm, including that score, make it seem like a really bad TV movie.

A cheap one too. The sets are awful.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed and produced by Irwin Allen; screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, based on the novel by Arthur Herzog Jr.; director of photography, Fred J. Koenekamp; edited by Harold F. Kress; music by Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, Stan Jolley; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Michael Caine (Brad Crane), Katharine Ross (Helena), Richard Widmark (Gen. Slater), Richard Chamberlain (Dr. Hubbard), Olivia de Havilland (Maureen), Ben Johnson (Felix), Lee Grant (Anne MacGregor), José Ferrer (Dr. Andrews), Patty Duke (Rita), Slim Pickens (Jud Hawkins), Bradford Dillman (Maj. Baker), Fred MacMurray (Clarence) and Henry Fonda (Dr. Walter Krim).