Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Unsung directors - John Flynn

Peter Dragovich writes an interesting article about the late director John Flynn in the new Crimespot. He cites The Outfit and Rolling Thunder as Flynn's best pictures (there's a third with Steven Segal).

I believe that Don Westlake said that The Outfit's characterization of Parker (here called Macklin) is the closest to the novel Parker. Robert Duvall is excellent. You buy him as a tough amoral guy because he doesn't play him as a tough amoral guy. He's just going about his business. I dubbed this off on tape years ago and I still watch it two or three times a year. Karen Black is sexy and sad; Robert Ryan lends his usual melancholy to the action film; Joe Don Baker is in his prime here and particularly strong--and as if he he wants to salute the crime film in general Flynn uses many familiar actors for some of the smaller roles, among them Jane Greer, Richard Jaeckel, Sheree North, Marie Windsor and even Elisha Cook, Jr. Duvall's intelligence and mystery carries the film. Flynn' direction is absolutely on the money. This should have been on tape and/or DVD years ago.

The second picture is Rolling Thunder which I've always considered one of Paul Schrader's finest scripts. This is one of those films you don't watch--you inhabit it, sometimes against your will. The star is William Devane . He plays a returning Viet Nam vet with only one thing on his mind, revenge. This and most of Karl Reisiz's Who'll Stop The Rain are the two best films I've ever seen about the era of Viet Nam played out on the American streets. The rage, the dislocation, the sucker's game fate of so many of the characters, Schrader and Flynn really give us the bleeding wound of that time. An amazing, disturbing movie.

My choice for Flynn's third best would be Best Seller, a starring vehicle for both James Woods and Brian Dennehy. Woods plays a hit man who wants to get back at an old enemy. To do it he needs the help of widower Dennehy who wrote a bestselling book about a murder investigation he was involved in as a detective. Unfortunately he's stalled on a second book and running out of the funds he needs to support his teenaged daughter and himself. Dennehy loathes Wood and doesn't trust him when he says that he knows who killed Dennehy's old police partner. He also claims that this will give Dennehy the biggest best seller he can imagine--killer and scandal are one and the same. There is a particularly moving and very strange scene where Woods takes Dennehy back go the small town where he grew up. Larry Cohen's script is excellent and Flynn's direction is flawless.

Rolling Thunder and Best Seller are easy and inexpensive to come by. Just light a lot of votive candles and pray that someday somebody will put The Outfit on DVD,


Chad Eagleton said...

I didn't think they've ever released Rolling Thunder on DVD. I keep looking for it.

courtney joyner said...

Sadly, ROLLING THUNDER isn't on dvd, and so I've worn out my old Magnetic Video release; Fox Movies has show it letterboxed a few times, so there's your chance to grab it. I knew John pretty well; we worked on a project that never saw the camera (he optioned a script of mine) even though we got James Woods on as our lead. John was a damn good writer and his notes to me - as well as his amazing patience - amounted to one of the best professional experiences I have ever had. We drifted in different directions for a few years and then I had the honor of hosting a q&a with John after a screening of ROLLING THUNDER and we re-newed our friendship over succeeding lunches and long phone calls. John was one of the kindest people I've ever known, and a fine, fine director - with an amazing eye for quality material and performance - who deserves to be appreciated.

Matt said...


Mike Dennis said...

Boy, are those three great forgotten movies or what? Thanks for reminding me of them, Ed. I saw them all when they came out and not since, with the exception of BEST SELLER once on TV.