Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Lorber Studio Classics - WHITE LIGHTNING, GATOR, SAM WHISKEY, MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE and VIVA MARIA on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, November 23, 2014


WHITE LIGHTNING (1973; Joseph Sargent)
"You two are more fun than going to an all-night dentist."
-Gator McKlusky
Burt Reynolds became known in the 1970s for playing a certain kind of loveable scamp and it kind of all started with Gator McKlusky. First off, Gator McKlusky is one of the great character names in the history of cinema and I mean ever. I love that name and Reynolds brings him to life in a way that brings so much of what you might expect a guy with that name to be like. WHITE LIGHTNING belongs to that rarified genre of what Quentin Tarantino calls "Good 'ol boy car-chase movies" and it's darned fun genre unto itself for sure. Tarantino ran WHITE LIGHTNING as part of one of his "QT Fests" way back in 1997 at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin Texas. He even used a track from Charles Bernstein's score for the film in his own movie INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (which is a great piece of music by the way). When you watch WHITE LIGHTNING, you can kind of see why QT is such a fan of it. There is this infectious spirit that I feel like only Burt Reynolds at that time could bring to Gator and his antics that is absolutely inimitable. On top of that, the film is filled with that special 1970s brand of out-of-their-mind of stuntwork that is still truly spectacular to this day. It certainly falls under the category of "they don't make em like that anymore".

Special Features:
-"Back to the Bayou - Part 1" (10 mins) - this is a neat new retrospective interview with the man Burt Reynolds himself. He looks back on WHITE LIGHTNING here with fondness and how it was the beginning for him of playing a lot of "that kind of rascal". Reynolds touches on his memories of a bunch of folks from the production including writer William Norton, director Joseph Sargent (and how Spielberg almost made the movie before him), stunt man Hal Needham (and tells a neat story of one specific stunt from the film), actor Ned Beatty, actress Jennifer Billingsley, Bo Hopkins, Diane Ladd, R.G. Armstrong and more. They really pack a lot into this 10 minutes and it's a pleasure to watch Reynolds reminisce. This interview is continued on the Kino Lorber GATOR Blu-ray.

GATOR (1976; Burt Reynolds)
One good Gator turn deserves another and Burt himself sat in the director's chair on this one. Gator is back, outta prison and roped into a federal sting operation to catch a dirty politician. This film benefits greatly from a couple new additions: Burt's mustache, Jerry Reed and the lovely Lauren Hutton. Gator had been sans-stache in WHITE LIGHTNING, but Reynolds corrects that here. Hutton had done THE GAMBLER with James Caan in 1974 and followed it with this. Jerry Reed and Burt had done W.W. AND THE DIXIE DANCE KINGS and then GATOR and would go on in 1977 to hit it really big with SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. They've always had great chemistry and this film is no exception.

Special Features:
-"Back to the Bayou - Part 2"(11 mins)

In this continuation of the interview from WHITE LIGHTNING, Reynolds talks about the why he wanted to direct GATOR (his debut feature), the challenges he faced therein, and shooting in Georgia as a location. Apparently the success of GATOR would be the thing that kept Reynolds acting. He also discusses Lauren Hutton, her behavior on set and Jerry Reed's first role as a bad guy. Burt also has more praise for Hal Needham here and his pride in the stuntwork in the films he directed. Actors Dudely Remus and Patrick Moody also have some brief recollections here about their memories of the movie.

SAM WHISKEY(1969; Arnold Laven)
From Kino's site:
"When it comes to trouble, make his a double! Welcome to America's Wild - and very wacky - West! Burt Reynolds (Gator), Clint Walker (More Dead Than Alive), Ossie Davis (The Scalphunters) and Angie Dickinson (Rio Bravo) star in this tongue-in-cheek tale of love, lust and larceny that's brimming with real charm and sharp wit. Thanks to ingenious plot twists, hilarious blunders and delightful chemistry, Sam Whiskey is a comely caper full of mischief and mayhem that is altogether intoxicating. Even crooks have standards - and keeping the loot is usually one of them. But when cowboy con artist Sam (Reynolds) falls head over spurs for a sexy widow (Dickinson), he finds himself compromising a lot more than his principles. After she seduces him into helping her break into the US Mint - to return a fortune in stolen gold - Sam begins to suspect that honesty might have some very ample rewards. Wonderfully directed by western specialist Arnold Laven (Rough Night in Jericho) with a great script by William W. Norton (White Lightning, Gator)."
This comedy western sees Burt joining an unlikely team of Angie Dickinson, Clint Walker and Ossie Davis on a mission to retrieve a bunch of gold bars from the bottom of a river. That's not all though, they have to sneak the bars back into the Denver mint as well. So you've got one part adventure, one part heist movie and it's a fun time. Burt is well suited to the Whiskey character and I feel in general that I wish he had made more westerns. Apparently the film originally featured a full "upper torso" frontal shot of Angie Dickinson, but this was later cut to save the film from the newly created "R" rating.
Special Features:
"Lookin' Back with O.W. Bandy" (9 mins) - This new interview with Clint Walker has him talking about his character in the film and his inventor-ly nature (which Walker himself apparently also shares), and his recollections of working with Burt Reynolds, Ossie Davis, Angie Dickinson and director Arnold Laven. While Walker is not nearly as lively an interview as Burt Reynolds, he is still an affable old fella and a veteran actor that you can feel the gravitas of even when he's sitting there in a recliner telling stories.

MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE (1969; Robert Sparr)
This Clint Walker film vehicle was one of only a few western films (not TV shows) that he made during this period. He plays a famous killer released from prison and trying to go straight only to find life on the outside quite difficult for a notorious murderer like himself. He finds some solace in a traveling carnival runner (Vincent Price) and a lovely young gal (Anna Francis), but it's still hard out there for a legend. One of those westerns that has a memorable ending and reminds us that the west was a place that built myth and reputations and created an environment in which many sought to capitalize on them. Vincent Price is good here and like Burt Reynolds, should have made more westerns. He is very much a "man out of time" and it allowed him to play period in a really wonderful and believable way.

Special Features:
"The Infamous Killer Cain" - an interview with Clint Walker (10 mins) - Walker talks about a memorable lunch he had with Jack Warner, his fondness for Vincent Price and how he very much liked working with him in MORE DEAD THAN ALIVE,  working with Anne Francis, some changes that started to happen to westerns around that time that troubled him and brought about a general disenchantment with Hollywood. You get a sense of  the classy actor and person that Walker was in this chat. 

VIVA MARIA (1965; Louis Malle)
If you're like me, there's a chance you hadn't heard much about this movie prior to this new Blu-ray release. How something like this slipped under my radar I have no clue, but with it starring Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau and George Hamilton and being directed by Louis Malle there's a whole lot of immediate appeal there. 
The film features a pretty cool opening sequence which sets up the Bardot character nicely and ends with her riding a train like a tramp and looking like Veronica Lake in disguise from SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (whether this is a direct nod I don't know, but I like it). Soon she meets Jeanne Moreau's character and they eventually hit it off. Moreau has always reminded me of the prototypical French film female in that she carries the most bored look on her face most of the time. Her mouth is almost naturally shaped to look as though it's turned downward into a frown when it is at rest. I have a natural inclination against women with faces like this so each time I see her in a film again I have to fight that urge and warm up to her. Regardless of my personal feelings, the two ladies are of course quite iconic and very good together here. It's a fun adventure film overall and one I'd recommend discovering. It reminds me ever so slightly of LADIES AND GENTLEMEN THE FABULOUS STAINS, in terms of the way these two ladies gain popularity and become revolutionaries.
There were French and English Dubbed versions released. The Blu-ray features the French version.

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