Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Lorber Studio Classics - HARRY IN YOUR POCKET, COPS AND ROBBERS, & REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER and THE BANK SHOT on Blu-ray ""

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


HARRY IN YOUR POCKET (1973; Bruce Geller)
As an unabashed lover of older movies, I must admit that I get pretty excited about the obscure ones. Ever since my good friend and I came across the fact that the old Leonard Maltin guides often contained tons of movies that had never been released on any home video format, we were obsessed. What were these mysterious movies? Why hadn't they ever gotten released? The intrigue was tantamount to pure drive to find as many of them as we could. There was this certain joy that we would get when we would finally track down one of them after more than a year of searching. Hard to relate to now I would guess, but nonetheless I still get a charge out of seeing some of the esoteric stuff. Though HARRY IN YOUR POCKET was not necessarily a movie we had on our list at the time, it has all the earmarks of a thing that we would have been fixated on once we heard about it. James Coburn, Walter Pidgeon, Michael Sarrazin and Michael C. Gwynne? These are all actors were (and are) right smack dab in our wheelhouse. We'd have been all over this movie had we gotten our sights on it. It wasn't to be back then, but this is one of those that started to crop up on MGM HD in the last decade or so and another friend of mine taped it off TV and loaned it to me. 
If a movie wants to go straight for my cinematic heart, all it need do is open with a scene of James Coburn and Walter Pidgeon walking and talking in an airport. I'm easy, I don't need much more than two amazing actors doing their thing in a low key way. And that they are dressed in snazzy early 70s period garb is just gravy. Add to all that the fact that this is a pickpocket movie and you've really got my attention. There's even an early bit of pickpocket business in the airport scene that is extremely endearing. 
I've always been a fan of movies that take you inside the rituals of certain fringe-type characters like this. Grifters always seem to make for good movie characters because they live by their wits and confidence alone. And pickpockets are particularly cinematic as they are like magicians. Their goal is to do their thing and make it seem like nothing out of the ordinary just happened. And pickpockets have been around for such a long time that it's this neat sociological window into the practices of an antiquated artform in a way. Antiquated and updated and scored by the always wonderful Lalo Schifrin. HARRY IN YOUR POCKET is a gem worth plucking from the display case and taking home.

Oh and here's a little taste of that delightfully cool Schifrin score from the film:

COPS & ROBBERS (1973; Aram Avakian)
This movie has ties to a couple things I really respond to. First off, it is a tale of the working man turned criminal which is a subject that fascinates me. The idea of what it would take to turn a regular person to crime and how they could morally justify it is a very curious topic that comes up every so often in films. One of my favorite examples of this is from the movie BLUE COLLAR with Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto. In BC, these guys plays down on their luck auto plant workers who decided to rob their union. COPS AND ROBBERS is the story of a couple of New York City police officers (Cliff Gorman & Joe Bologna) who have dabbled in the occasional graft, deciding to set up the proverbial "big job". All they need to do use hook up with the right shady typeof person and then steal whatever that person wants them to steal that's worth $10 million. The premise alone is a musing and it comes from master writer Donald E. Westlake. Westlake (who also wen by other pen names) is one of the better crime fiction writers of the twentieth century. His books have been adapted into countless films like POINT BLANK, THE HOT ROCK, THE OUTFIT, and PAYBACK to name a few. His writing tends to make for good movies in the crime genre. I like this particular adaptation quite a bit. There's just something about working class cops in New York City in the early 1970s that appeals to me. Heck, even New York City itself in the early 70s appeals to me. It's a rough and tumble place and there's a palpable sense of grit about it all. New York City in movies has always been a fascinatingly scary place for me. So much crime is depicted there.  I find it ironic that in this case, said crime is perpetrated by the cops themselves. 

Special Features:
This Blu-ray includes a cool new interview with actor Joseph Bologna. 

REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER (1975; Milton Katselas)
This film reminds me of ACROSS 110TH STREET or something. It may be in part that both films star the excellent Yaphet Kotto, but there's more than that. On their surfaces, both movies look like straightforward, gritty cop dramas and perhaps little else, but under the surface is more. There's a mystery or a conspiracy element that plays into each movie that ends up elevating them. REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER starts and plays out very much like an old-school film noir. A young woman's body is found in a loft apartment in the opening scene. She's been murdered. What's more interesting though is who she is and who killed her. It's revealed right away that she was an undercover cop and that her murderer was another policeman (Michael Moriarty). From there we flashback and watch the disparate pieces start to slide into place. We are introduced to the dead woman (Susan Blakely) and given the lowdown on her unorthodox yet effective undercover techniques. We get to know Kotto's cop  "Crunch" as he guides his new partner (Moriarty) through the filth and scum that is their precinct. Moriarty is quite good here as a hippie detective who is still green enough to think he can genuinely make a difference in the neighborhood if he maintains good relationships with the locals. He has a wide-eyed wonder about him and is genuinely affected by the plights of the folks he deals with. But as Yaphet Kotto says in voice over at one point, this whole big city cop business is just not the thing for this kid to be doing. Moriarty is an underrated and oft overlooked actor in my opinion. He can play evil and conniving just as well as he can play innocent and child-like. His character here is certainly more of the innocent and child-like type, but there's an intelligence and idealism that Moriarty brings to it that. He has this nearly innate ability to play lesser-educated New York City natives in the most genuine way. The manner in which he speaks carries a lot with it. He is originally from Detroit Michigan, but you'd never know it based on the way he carries himself and how he sounds. He feels like someone who just strolled in off the streets of Manhattan and decided to join in the movies. He's not condescending and yet he is able to tap into this raw emotional place from which to bring forth these lower-class characterizations. I think I first saw him in some Larry Cohen movies like Q and THE STUFF and then I started to notice he was in a metric ton of movies. Anyway, he's underappreciated and I very much liked this movie as a showcase for what he can do. Joining in on the party with Moriarty are such glorious character actor heavyweights as Vic Tayback, Hector Elizondo, William Devane, Bob Balaban and Dana Elcar. Richard Gere even has a "whoa is that him?" kind of role as a street pimp. Even in a small part, Gere is radiating something special. Oh and did I mention that Yaphet Kotto has a mustache in this? He does and it is awesome.

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