Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag: KANSAS CITY BOMBER and SWEET REVENGE ""

Monday, August 19, 2013

Warner Archive Grab Bag: KANSAS CITY BOMBER and SWEET REVENGE

KANSAS CITY BOMBER(1972; Jerrold Freedman)
When you say the words "roller derby movie" you may have drawn my interest slightly. But when you add the words, "starring Raquel Welch", you've piqued my attention for sure. If you've ever wondered what it would be like if Raquel joined the WWE for a while and became a badass chick there, this movie gives you a taste of that. Interestingly it also gives you a taste(albeit a much much less gritty taste) of the type of drama that Darren Aronofsky would bring to something like THE WRESTLER. In BOMBER, Welch's character plays a single mom, looking for any way she can to support her kids(one of which is played by a very young Jodie Foster). Like I said, it's considerably tamer than the goings-on in THE WRESTLER, but I find it interesting that the film really tries to bring some down-to-earth drama to this crazy world of rolling thunder and flying elbows.
There are certain films that really show the time and place they were made in via the clothes and hairstyles of the cast and extras. Well KCB has that in spades for sure. It is a fairly pure snapshot of a period beyond being a roller derby flick. There's always something kind nice to me about films that show their time frame so explicitly as it always makes me feel like I'm really being transported back to that space. Many films nowadays do their best to avoid details like this and they often feel very "designed" for lack of a better idea. This movie seems to me to have been made on a lower budget and the result is that much of it is just capturing the main actors in a setting with little or less than normal set design and so forth. For this reason the movie feels more real to me and I always appreciate that. Another thing I always appreciate is when a movie throws a sleazy Kevin McCarthy performance in the mix to spice things up.


SWEET REVENGE(1976; Jerry Schatzberg)
Jerry Schatzberg is a director I've been into for some time. I think it was his film PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK that was the first to grab me. It's depressing as hell, but an amazing, gritty portrait of New York in the early 1970s. It also features a very early turn from Mr. Al Pacino, which supposedly Coppola saw and influenced his decision to cast him in THE GODFATHER. Schatzberg worked with Pacino again in the fantastic SCARECROW a couple years later. If you haven't seen SCARECROW, do yourself a favor and go watch it right now.  Both Pacino and Gene Hackman are fantastic in it. Anyway, SWEET REVENGE was a Schatzberg film I'd never seen or even heard of until this release. It stars a pre-Rizzo Stockard Channing as a bad girl car thief with dreams of scraping enough cash together to legally buy a smokin' hot Dino Ferrari sports car. Sam Waterston co-stars as a public defender who takes pity on her after she's caught on a petty theft charge.
One thing that caught my attention immediately when I first saw SCARECROW was that it was shot by the great Vilmos Zsigmond. Same goes for SWEET REVENGE which means it looks very good of course and the compositions are quite artful as you might expect. Schatzberg handles a Panavision frame really really well. He even has a great eye for locations too. One of my favorites is featured in a brief scene in SWEET REVENGE. It's a memorable Seattle landmark called the "Hat 'N' Boots"(see pic). One of my favorite things in 70s films is seeing programmatic buildings like this pop up. Another thing I kinda love about 70s films dealing with crime is the way certain schemes can be pulled off in a way that would never be possible today. Stockard Channing's character has a con game akin to something out of CATCH ME IF YOU CAN and that kind of stuff always amuses me. Criminals could get away with so much more(at least in movies) back then. I hate using the phrase,"it was a simpler time" but it was that for sure. Overall, this is an interesting 1970s style character study. Stockard Channing covers the part well and it's a bummer that it's still kind of a rarity to see a film with a female criminal as the main character.

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