The Chase (1966)
, directed by Arthur Penn.
Ex-farmer Marlon Brando is now sheriff of an unmanageable town, sort of Peyton Place (1957)
translated into a Texas gothic location where everyone is armed and belligerent. Adultery is the town passion: the way they carry on in public, and those parties! Even the kids are wild and out of control. Brando and wife Angie Dickinson seem to have the only happy marriage around.
News flash: local bad boy Robert Redford has escaped from prison and is on his way back. Some are excited by the prospect, others terrified.
A fun part of this is a rich cast. From old Hollywood: E.G. Marshall, Miriam Hopkins, Henry Hull, Bruce Cabot. Newer faces: Robert Duvall, James Fox, Clifton James.
This is the film where Jane Fonda first shows she's got it and is going to have an acting career. And I want to make particular note of Janice Rule, who I've seen only in The Swimmer (1968)
and 3 Women (1977)
. In this film her beauty and sexual appetite are mesmerizing.
The climactic burning junkyard as hell-on-earth, a festival atmosphere for the townsfolk, is memorable and disturbing.
On the down side:
- It ticks a bunch of boxes that seem formulaic now, though were maybe less so at the time:
- ...the violent passions of the South[-west].
- ...the bad whites persecute Mexicans and blacks. One fellow is nearly murdered for "walking while black", really.
- ...Brando gets beaten up, as always.
- ...as usual Brando and Redford are both "outlaws" who don't mesh well with respectable hypocritical society. Rebels are more decent to minorities so we like them better.
- Redford is an odd choice for "Bubber Reeves", with his patrician looks and Kennedy-esque hair.
JFK was on the director's mind: we have a close reenactment of Ruby shooting Oswald, this time on the jailhouse steps.
Brando's beating is remarkably brutal and bloody.
Writers Horton Foote and Lillian Hellman disowned it. The director said he was disappointed with the result. Editing was taken away from him and they used Brando's dullest version of each scene.
Music written and conducted by John Barry. Photographed by Joseph LaShelle and uncredited Robert Surtees.
Available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time with a commentary track by regulars Nick Redman (1955--2019), Julie Kirgo and Lem Dobbs.
They love watching the film and have no end of stories about it, but also admit it is right on the border of "bad" with "should have been great".
For the score they say this is one of John Barry's weaker efforts.