Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag - THE LUSTY MEN and CORKY ""

Monday, November 17, 2014

Warner Archive Grab Bag - THE LUSTY MEN and CORKY

THE LUSTY MEN (1952; Nicholas Ray)
With THE LUSTY MEN, Warner Archive has put out a nice compliment to their OUT OF THE PAST Blu-ray. This tale of another "Jeff" also stars the majestic Mr. Mitchum. In this yarn, Mitchum plays a rodeo rider on his way down who ends up getting involved with a young married couple (Arthur Kennedy and Susan Hayward). Jeff Mccloud (Mitchum) stirs up the adventurous side of Wes Merritt (Arthur Kennedy) and inspires him to start rodeo-ing to earn some extra cash. What follows is something of a gritty, heart-wrenching tale of a man grappling with success and the impact it is having on his marriage. It's a tough, mirthless film but it has an authenticity to it that is quite impactful.
Watching shot compositions in a Nicholas Ray movie always gets me thinking. Things are probably more intentional than not. A simple shot of Mitchum's character on the other side of a fence from a married couple could easily be a thing that's deliberately and poetically separating the two. "Poetic" is a word I associate with Nicholas Ray in general. He's one of those filmmakers you can tie in with folks like John Ford, but there's an even deeper sense of melancholy that Ray brings to his films that I really really appreciate. Ford has a tendency to push things into a schmaltzier territory sometimes and I like that Ray does not go there. Mitchum is a wonderful fit for Ray and I wish they'd worked more together. I highly recommend his film THEY LIVE BY NIGHT and to watch it in close proximity to THE LUSTY MEN is really a good way to go. 

CORKY (1972; Leonard Horn)
The opening song to  CORKY ("Boy, Would I Be Lookin Good" by Larry Murray") strikes an immediate tone and kinship with me for films like ONE ON ONE, HAROLD AND MAUDE and perhaps THE LAST AMERICAN HERO. There are actually a bunch more films from the 1970s that started off with a song of this nature and I must admit that I am a sucker for it. I miss the gentle sound of a good Paul Williams opening credits tune quite a bit these days and though some might find such things to be cheesy, I find them to cause a near-instant emotional connection for me. Corky Curtiss (as played by Robert Blake) is a different kind of character than those in the films I mentioned though. He shows his stripes within the first scene of the film when he chooses racing over family in a small, but significant way. He's a mechanic by trade, but a race driver through and through. Though you can still occasionally see a film carried by a basically irredeemable lead character, the 1970s was a unique time for this sort of narrative. Certain actors were allowed to flourish and place the weight of a movie squarely on the shoulders of their own charisma. Robert Blake is certainly a compelling actor with charisma and a mischievous spirit that was very much his own. Corky Curtis would be a much less likable character if not for the vibrance, energy and passion that Blake infuses him with. That said, CORKY can be a bit of a tough watch at times. It's a great showcase for Robert Blake though to be sure and that goes a surprisingly long way. This movie has been unavailable on DVD so far so it's always nice to see a rare film finally out there for folks to check it out. The movie has a nice supporting cast including an adorable Charlotte Rampling (never cuter than she is here), Ben Johnson and real-life driver Richard Petty.

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