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Classic noir thriller finally available on DVD
on July 16, 2005
Leave it to John Boorman to combine the stylized storytelling of French New Wave with American film noir in "Point Blank". This fascinating, challenging movie was made in 1967 when the film world was in the embrace of experimental film. Although it's quite different from "Blow Up", the storytelling style is just as stylized and unique. Lee Marvin plays Walker a criminal cheated out of $93,000 from a robbery of a mob like syndicate on Alcatraz by his best friend Reese(John Vernon). Participating in the heist/murder is Walker's young wife who has been having an affair with Reese. After getting the money, Reese shoots his friend, takes his wife and leaves him for dead on Alcatraz.
With the help of a mysterious benefactor (Keenan Wynn), Walker tracks down Reese exacting revenge in pursuit for what he's owed. When his wife commits suicide, Walker seeks out her sister Chris (Angie Dickinson)in hope of luring Reese out of hiding. From there this convoluted mystery spins more threads than director John Boorman knows what to do with but, surprisingly, he keeps the story from getting too tangled up.
Boorman and director Steven Soderbergh ("Ocean's 11", "Solaris", "Sex Lies and Videotape")provide a fascinating commentary track on the making of the movie. Boorman recalls that originally Lee Marvin wanted Peggy Lee for the role that Dickinson plays. While he went with Boorman's decision of Dickinson he wasn't very nice to his co-star which worked particularly during the scene where Dickinson starts hitting Marvin. Dickinson hit Marvin so hard he had bruises the next day but the actor stoically took the hits and the camera kept rolling. Boorman also discusses the stylized approach he uses in shooting the film including a sequence in Walker's deceased wife's apartment that where the body disappears in an almost dream like sequence, the furniture disappears and Marvin's clothes change. The studio was so concerned when it saw the first cut of this sequence it hired a psychologist to come talk to the director.
Featuring a stunning transfer from Warner Home Video and a nearly perfect brand new print of the film, "Point Blank" looks sharp with vivid colors. The mono soundtrack with some of its unusual sound effects (the sound of Walker's feet providing a percussive element to one sequence in particularly)also sounds remarkably clear. There's also a two part promo featurette "The Rock" which focuses on the shooting of the movie on Alcatraz (it was the first movie shot there since the prison closed in 1963 and had been turned into a state park). Using San Francisco, Santa Monica and Los Angeles as a backdrop, the film features stunning cinematography. If Don Siegel had watched the French New Wave prior to making some of his noir laced thrillers, this is what it might have looked like.
Remade with Mel Gibson as a more traditional looking thriller called "Payback", "Point Blank" features Marvin in one of his most stoic, powerful and grim performances. His character of Walker leaves a trail of dead bodies without remorse or regret in pursuit of what is rightfully his. Unlike a lot of films that incorporated the surreal touch of the French New Wave (such as Truffaut's "Shoot the Piano Player" or any of Goddard's films), "Point Blank" has aged remarkably well with Boorman's stylized use of sets, camera set ups, flasbacks, etc. suggesting what's really going on inside of Walker's head. There's also a suggestion that maybe Walker didn't survive (particularly during the last sequence)and that "Point Blank" represents the dying delusion of a man thirsting for revenge. A marvelous film filled with many, many levels, this classic thriller does not have a straight forward narrative so if you're expecting a realistic film noir or story, you should look elsewhere.