Tag Archives: George Kennedy

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974, Michael Cimino)

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is the story of men in all their complexities. Their desire for money, their desire for women, their desire for stylish clothes. Whether a young man–Jeff Bridges–or an older man–Clint Eastwood–how can any of us truly understand these deep, complex beings.

I wish the film had that level of pretense, but it doesn’t. Writer-director Cimino has a lot of machismo issues to work out and he also wants to draw a lot of attention to Eastwood’s character’s Korean War valor. Is it a commentary on the Vietnam War? It would suggest a deeper level to the film, which is otherwise initially Bridges and Eastwood’s comedic misadventures avoiding George Kennedy, while the second half is Bridges, Eastwood, and Kennedy teaming up to rob a bank. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’s Eastwood-lite second half is a sequence of questionable sight gag “comedy” and boring car chases. Oh, and the lamest heist sequence ever. Cimino’s direction is all about the Idaho and Montana vistas. He doesn’t pace well, though editor Ferris Webster does no favors.

Frank Stanley’s photography is fine. It’s occasionally too impersonal, but it’s not like a better lighted pool hall was going to fundamentally fix the film. Cimino’s script–and his resulting film–are real shallow. Kennedy’s the closest thing to a full character just because Kennedy has to contend with big contrary actions. Cimino forcefully shoehorns them into the script, complete with dialogue to foreshadow, and Kennedy manages to make them work. No one else is as lucky.

Except maybe Geoffrey Lewis. He’s the film’s comedy relief, someone everyone–Kennedy, Bridges, and Eastwood–can bully. Men like to bully. It makes them men. Bullying and knowing almost nothing about concussions, even though all implied backstory is to the contrary of the latter. Lewis actually works in the background, just because Cimino treats him like scenery. But Lewis stays busy.

Eastwood’s got a nothing character. Initially he’s just running away from Kennedy. Then he teams up with Bridges and they have cinema’s lamest bromance. Cimino forces in some exposition on Bridges, which Bridges delivers in an annoying, obnoxious, insipid fashion. Eastwood gets none. He has no character. He delivers a decent performance nonetheless, apparently able to pretend there’s some depth to not just his character, but the film itself.

And Bridges. As it turns out, Bridges maybe gives the film’s most appropriate performance. He’s doing something, it’s not working, so he just does more of it. Also the perfect description of Cimino and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

A weak score from Dee Barton rounds it out. Besides the Montana travelogue, which is gorgeous, a lot of cameos from seventies character actors, and Kennedy’s performance, there’s not much to the film. It needs a better director and a much, much better script.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Michael Cimino; director of photography, Frank Stanley; edited by Ferris Webster; music by Dee Barton; produced by Robert Daley; released by United Artists.

Starring Clint Eastwood (Thunderbolt), Jeff Bridges (Lightfoot), Geoffrey Lewis (Eddie Goody) and George Kennedy (Red Leary).


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Airport (1970, George Seaton)

While it did start the seventies disaster genre, Airport barely qualifies. The first hour of the film is excruciating soap opera melodrama—airport chief Burt Lancaster is stuck in a loveless marriage with harpy Dana Wynter, so he’s got a flirtation going with widowed Jean Seberg. His sister, played by Barbara Hale, is stuck in a loveless marriage with pilot Dean Martin, who’s carrying on with stewardess Jacqueline Bisset.

Lancaster is only stepping out on Wynter because she’s awful to him… Hale’s great to Martin, but she’s barren, so it’s tacitly agreed he’s expected to step out. Seaton’s script is really direct about that point—it’s Hale’s fault.

Casting Martin as a megalomaniac pilot is an interesting choice. His performance is awful, but it’s appropriate. Once the disaster kicks in, however, he gets a little better.

Lancaster looks disinterested and bored with the film; Seberg is okay, though her role is seriously underwritten. The first half of the film belongs to Helen Hayes, playing a stowaway. She’s the best thing in the film.

Maureen Stapleton’s good (though the script fails her); Whit Bissell probably gives film’s second best performance.

The second half, the disaster part… is actually somewhat worse. It moves faster, but it’s less competent as Seaton make Martin into an angel.

Seaton’s direction is awful. Though the film clearly has a budget, he shoots the interiors like he doesn’t. His Panavision composition is shockingly inept.

Combined with Alfred Newman’s truly atrocious score, Airport is a miserable viewing experience.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by George Seaton; screenplay by Seaton, based on the novel by Arthur Hailey; director of photography, Ernest Laszlo; edited by Stuart Gilmore; music by Alfred Newman; produced by Ross Hunter; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Burt Lancaster (Mel Bakersfeld), Dean Martin (Capt. Vernon Demerest), Jean Seberg (Tanya Livingston), Jacqueline Bisset (Gwen Meighen), George Kennedy (Joe Patroni), Helen Hayes (Ada Quonsett), Van Heflin (D.O. Guerrero), Maureen Stapleton (Inez Guerrero), Barry Nelson (Capt. Anson Harris), Dana Wynter (Cindy Bakersfeld), Lloyd Nolan (Harry Standish), Barbara Hale (Sarah Bakersfeld Demerest), Gary Collins (Cy Jordan), John Findlater (Peter Coakley), Jessie Royce Landis (Mrs. Harriet DuBarry Mossman), Larry Gates (Commissioner Ackerman), Peter Turgeon (Marcus Rathbone), Whit Bissell (Mr. Davidson), Virginia Grey (Mrs. Schultz), Eileen Wesson (Judy Barton) and Paul Picerni (Dr. Compagno).


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The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988, David Zucker)

Oh, okay… it’s less than ninety minutes. I was wondering why The Naked Gun felt so fast. It’s because it’s short.

That observation isn’t a negative one—the film is a constant delight, with Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker (and Pat Proft) coming up with a good laugh or gag every thirty to forty seconds. Someone should sit down and figure out how the humor’s paced. Some of the gags get amusing because they keep them up (Leslie Nielsen being a terrible driver) as opposed to being particularly original, but then there are these fantastic inventive gags….

About halfway through, I realized Zucker (the directing Zucker) let the camera sit on his actors. His composition isn’t great—it’s not bad, but it’s not particularly dynamic—but his direction is excellent. He has these long shots in this one exchange between Nielsen and Ricardo Montalban where he holds the shots to give each of them the maximum opportunity. While Nielsen’s amazing—his performance in Gun is sometimes unbelievably good, he even holds it up as the script’s approach shifts (from other people realizing he’s a dimwit to the film’s reality being slightly conked)—Montalban is great too. Zucker gives his best actors—Nielsen (obviously), Montalban and George Kennedy their own segments. Montalban and Kennedy’s both involve food.

Unfortunately, even though she’s not bad, Priscilla Presley is out of her league acting-wise.

Nancy Marchand is excellent in a smaller role and John Houseman’s cameo is wonderful.

The Naked Gun is a superb comedy.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by David Zucker; screenplay by Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Pat Proft, based on a television series created by Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker; director of photography, Robert M. Stevens; edited by Michael Jablow; music by Ira Newborn; production designer, John J. Lloyd; produced by Robert K. Weiss; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Leslie Nielsen (Frank Drebin), Priscilla Presley (Jane Spencer), Ricardo Montalban (Vincent Ludwig), George Kennedy (Ed Hocken), O.J. Simpson (Nordberg), Susan Beaubian (Mrs. Nordberg), Raye Birk (Pahpshmir), Jeannette Charles (Queen Elizabeth II), Ed Williams (Ted Olsen), Tiny Ron (Al) and Nancy Marchand as The Mayor.


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The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991, David Zucker)

Watching The Naked Gun 2½, its’s almost immediate clear the missing Z-A or is it A-Z (being Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams) are the ones who made the first film funny. They don’t contribute to this one’s script—instead it’s just the other Z, David Zucker (who also directs) and Pat Proft. The script is so 1991 topical it’s painful… and it’s lame too.

The topical stuff—George H.W. Bush is a character (being the president and all) and there’s a lot about the Democratic Party being in trouble—would probably be funny on a sitcom. Or maybe on a “Saturday Night Live” sketch (why they didn’t get Dana Carvey is beyond me). Then there’s some stuff about evil energy companies. That aspect is still topical, I suppose.

Particularly stupid is the film taking place in Washington, D.C. They explain Leslie Nielsen is just visiting from Los Angeles, but apparently George Kennedy and O.J. Simpson transferred.

Nielsen’s able to keep it together, even though the script only gives him a good laugh every three minutes (instead of every thirty seconds like the original), but Kennedy looks exhausted. Simpson’s good. Priscilla Presley is weak too (Zucker and Proft break her and Nielsen up off screen so they can reunite in the story—awful decision). Robert Goulet’s awful.

The film also has a stupid female police commissioner character just like the first one. It’s a subtle bit of misogyny.

The jokes occasionally work, but it’s a lukewarm, lousy sequel.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by David Zucker; screenplay by David Zucker and Pat Proft, based on a television series by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker; director of photography, Robert M. Stevens; edited by Christopher Greenbury and James R. Symons; music by Ira Newborn; production designer, John J. Lloyd; produced by Robert K. Weiss; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Leslie Nielsen (Det. Lt. Frank Drebin), Priscilla Presley (Jane Spencer), George Kennedy (Det. Captain Ed Hocken), O.J. Simpson (Det. Nordberg), Robert Goulet (Quentin Hapsburg), Richard Griffiths (Dr. Albert S. Meinheimer / Earl Hacker) and Jacqueline Brookes (Commissioner Anabell Brumford).


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