Kino Lorber Studio Classics has kind of become "Burt Central" when it comes to Burt Reynold's films on Blu-ray and that is kind of awesome. In addition to WHITE LIGHTNING, GATOR, and SAM WHISKEY they've also now brought us MALONE and NAVAJO JOE (see below). Throw in WHV's releases of SHARKY'S MACHINE and HOOPER and there is a bonafide "Burt-aissance" happening with regard to his older catalog classics. MALONE is a flick that is not quite as well known as his 1970s work, but it is nonetheless beloved. The old Orion VHS cover for the movie will forever be burned onto my brain and I think that pretty much every movie should have key art like that. It really sums up where Burt was at back in 1987. He had made the criminally underrated HEAT (no, not the Michael Mann film) in 1986 and would also have RENT-A-COP with Liza Minnelli come out the same year as MALONE. Burt was starting to slide into softer territory and though he had made the hard-edged STICK in 1985, his previous work post-1981 was mostly made of up comedies. I always see MALONE as Burt attempting to re-assert himself as a badass one more time. MALONE is like his DEATH WISH III or something (no gangs here though) without a DEATH WISH I or II. After MALONE, Burt would mostly do dramas and more comedies and even some animation (ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN). It's a great action swan song though and it's not odd that it has a fanbase of rabid action fans who rented that VHS tape based on the image of Burt blasting away with that shotgun. Also, Malone is a name that can be screamed in anger really well and I think that helps the movie too. Think of some goon yelling "Malooooone!!" and you're putting yourself in the right mindset to watch this thing. The story isn't groundbreaking or anything, Burt plays an Ex-C.I.A. hit man trying to get away from his old life by retiring and finds himself stuck in a small town in Wyoming. He befriends a local farmer/service station owner (Scott Wilson) and his daughter (Cynthia Gibb) and when he sees that a local millionaire (Cliff Robertson) is leaning on them with his mercenaries, he feels the need to gum up the works a bit. It's classic David and Goliath stuff, but the locals underestimate Malone and that's just not a good idea. The movie even has a corrupt sheriff play perfectly by the late great Kenneth McMillan. Lauren Hutton shows up too. It all makes for good times for action fans.
NAVAJO JOE (1967; Sergio Corbucci)
NAVAJO JOE is one of those rare cases wherein more people are familiar with the music from this movie than the movie itself. Quentin Tarantino is a huge fan of both the film and Ennio Morricone's fantastic score for it and he used the tracks "Silhouette of Doom" and "The Demise of Barbara and the Return of Joe" for KILL BILL VOLUME TWO. The latter track was also used in Alexander Payne's film ELECTION as well. It's really amazing music and perfect for movies new and old so it's no wonder that these tracks found their way into other films:
It's easy to see why Tarantino is a fan of this movie. First off, it's director by Sergio Corbucci and QT has oft declared him a favorite amongst the Spaghetti Western pioneers. Beyond that, it starts off in a no-nonsense kinda way with a young woman shot to death in cold blood by a bandit and then immediately scalped. As the gent holds her scalp aloft, the credits (and Morricone's fantastic music) begin. Burt demonstrates his badass-itude minutes later as he attacks two of the hoard of scumbags head-on with only a knife to start with. He takes them out quickly without a word and thus we are introduced to Navajo Joe. One thing about westerns and those of the Pasta variety specifically is that they can really demonstrate how oppressively terrible and cruel the outlaws could be in the old frontier. I've said it often that a movie is as good as it villain(s) and these westerns had some nice baddies. I have a penchant for films where one man takes on a certainly army and this is one of those for sure. Burt not only does a lot of shooting, but he also does lots of running, jumping, tackling and stabbing here too. It's a very physical role for Mr. Reynolds and he handles it well. It's a solid showcase for him. Though I take the somewhat controversial stance that there's a whole lot more chaff than wheat to be found whilst digging through the spaghetti, NAVAJO is certainly one of the good ones.
While the transfer is far from sparkling, this is a case of the movie looking better than it ever has before and better than it probably ever will. My guess is that the film was mad cheaply and film stock was not something the production saw as needing to be high end. Supplements include an enjoyable audio commentary by Film Historian Gary Palmucci.