Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The Oliver Reed Film Festival, Pt. 2: The '70s
In Part One of "The Oliver Reed Film Festival," Ollie rose to fame during the 1960s. By the early '70s, he was considered "The Biggest Star in Britain," as least in his own estimation.
TAKE A GIRL LIKE YOU (1970):
A young schoolteacher (Hayley Mills) comes to a small town in the South of England and before you can say Eric Robinson, a local cad -- Ollie, of course -- tries to get into her knickers. But then competition, in the form of Noel Harrison, rears its ugly head. From the novel by Kingsley Amis.
THE DEVILS (1971):
Reed is mesmerizing as Father Urbain Grandier, a lusty priest who tries to protect his city from an unholy union of church and state fomented by the evil Cardinal Richelieu (see also The Three Muskeeters). Naked nuns, bearing false witness, lead to Ollie being burned at the stake. Ken Russell's masterpiece, unjustly hacked up by the censors. With Vanessa Redgrave as the hunchbacked Mother Superior.
THE HUNTING PARTY (1971):
Ultra-violent western about a famous outlaw (Reed) who kidnaps the wife (Candice Bergen) of a wealthy rancher (Gene Hackman), so that she can teach him to read. She discovers that she likes the outlaw better than her husband, while her husband forms the titular hunting party to track down and kill the outlaw, his gang, and the wife, most bloodily. A metaphor for the Viet Nam war, believe it or not.
THE TRIPLE ECHO a/k/a SOLDIER IN SKIRTS (1972):
During World War II, a pretty boy private (Brian Deacon) goes AWOL to live with his lover (Glenda Jackson), who decides that he should pose as her sister to avoid detection. While in drag, he becomes the object of desire of a brutish cockney sergeant, played with suitable menace by Ollie. Tragedy ensues. Directed by Michael Apted.
SITTING TARGET (1972):
Brutal crime drama a la Get Carter, with Reed as a prison escapee who deviates from his escape plan so that he may kill his cheating wife, played by Jill St. John. With Ian McShane. Can you say "Mayhem ensues"?
Z.P.G. a/k/a ZERO POPULATION GROWTH (1972):
In a totalitarian state of the not-too-distant future, childbearing has been outlawed, but Reed and his wife (Geraldine Chaplin) fight the power by having a baby. Word gets out and Ollie is forced to do violence to the police, his friends and neighbors, in order to protect the child. Inspired 2006's Children of Men.
REVOLVER a/k/a BLOOD IN THE STREETS(1973):
Italian-made revenge drama directed by Sergio Sollima, with Reed as a cop trying to get his kidnapped wife back from some nasty mobsters. One of his best attempts at an American accent. If you like your Ollie in-your-face, yelling a lot and killing people, this one's for you. With Fabio Testi.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973)
THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974)
"Oliver Reed is fucking God in this movie" -- Quentin Tarantino
Swashbuckling epic with an all-star cast, including Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Frank Finlay and Michael York as the Musketeers, plus Raquel Welch, Faye Dunaway, Spike Milligan, and Charlton Heston as Cardinal Richelieu. The best sword fights ever captured on film, even if Ollie did nearly kill Christopher Lee, several stuntmen, and himself in the process.
When I first saw this movie as a 13 year old with a Who fixation, I hated Ollie for not being able to carry a tune in a bucket. Seeing it again 30 years later, I realized that he's the best thing in it, whether he's leering at Ann-Margaret, blowing smoke in Jack Nicholson's face, or kicking Sally Simpson upside the head. Reed's part got bigger and bigger as Keith Moon's got smaller and smaller, probably due to Ken Russell's familiarity with Oliver, and the fact that he could drink himself into stupor at night and show up on time and line-perfect in the morning, while Moonie remained stuporous. Nonetheless, Reed and Moon became bosom buddies, their carousing continuing after both relocated to Beverly Hills. I recently saw the blazer Reed sported in the holiday camp sequence on Ebay going for $2400 US. If I'd had the cash to spare, it would have been mine...
ROYAL FLASH (1975):
Malcolm McDowell plays Harry Flashman, rogue hero of George McDonald Frasier's novels, but Ollie steals the show as Otto Von Bismark. Directed by Richard Lester.
THE SELL-OUT (1976):
Israeli-made spy flick with Reed again cast as an American. It's a tense little tale full of double-crosses and sudden violence. Which is probably why they cast Ollie. "Sudden violence? Get me Oliver Reed!" With Richard Widmark and Gayle Hunnicut.
BURNT OFFERINGS (1976):
After turning down roles in The Sting and Jaws, both of which went to Robert Shaw, Ollie finally went to America for this horror about a house possessed by evil spirits. His character ends up plummeting from the top floor, face first through the windshield of the family car. Co-starring Karen Black and grande dame Bette Davis, who shared with Reed a mutual and thorough dislike.
THE GREAT SCOUT & CATHOUSE THURSDAY (1976):
Reed plays blue-eyed Indian scout Joe Knox, with plenty of bronze make-up and a dialect lifted directly from Jay Silverheels. Worth seeing for the teaming of two legendary booze-hounds -- Olllie and the palimony-era Lee Marvin -- but the film was emblematic of Reed's brief sojourn in Hollywood. He had resisted coming to America because he was the biggest star in Britain, the self-proclaimed "Mr. England," but it was films like this that demonstrated that he had waited a couple of years too long. With Robert Culp and Kay Lenz.
THE RANSOM a/k/a MANIACa/k/a ASSAULT ON PARADISE a/k/a THE TOWN THAT CRIED TERROR (1977)
American International Pictures released this dopey action flick under a number of different titles, and a number of hard-drinking character actors, including Ollie, a sweaty and hungover-looking Stuart Whitman, and Jim Mitchum, the Son of Bob, picked up easy paychecks. With Deborah Raffin.
CROSSED SWORDS a/k/a THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER (1977):
All-star remake of the Mark Twain classic, reuniting Reed with his Museketeers co-star Raquel Welch and Oliver!'s Mark Lester, who plays the title roles. Great swashbuckling action, with Ollie in top form. Co-starring four winners of the Academy Award for Best Actor: Rex Harrison, George C. Scott, Charlton Heston, and Ernest Borgnine. Directed by Richard Fleischer.
THE BIG SLEEP (1978):
Robert Mitchum returns as Phillip Marlowe in the follow-up to Farewell, My Lovely, but thanks to international financing, and plain laziness, the action is transplanted from '40s L.A. to modern-day London. Reed plays gangster Eddie Mars with scowling menace, apparently as a favor to director Michael Winner, with whom he'd worked on three previous (and much better) films. With Richard Boone, Sarah Miles, Candy Clark, and Joan Collins.
TOMORROW NEVER COMES (1978):
Peter Colinson (The Italian Job, The Penthouse) directed this made-in-Quebec crime drama featuring a mix of British (Oliver Reed, Susan George, Donald Pleasance) and Canadian (Stephen McHattie, John Ireland, and Raymong Burr) actors. Reed trots out his American tough guy accent as an embittered, burnt-out cop who, on his last day on the force, must deal with a hostage situation. The shot of Ollie hoisting a can of Molson Export Ale is one for the ages.
THE BROOD (1979):
Ollie went to Canada to make this shocker with director David Cronenberg, who wrote the film following a bitter divorce and custody battle with his ex-wife. It's all about a crazy bitch, played by Samanth Eggar, whose rage manifests itself by giving birth to malevolent dwarves who kill anyone she perceives to be a threat to her happiness. The reveal of her exo-womb is still mighty disturbing. Reed is great, though aging fast, as her psychotherapist, Dr. Raglan, who inevitably dies badly at the hands of the title characters. With Art Hindle.
Originally posted in BLOG! by JM Dobies on 16 August 2007.
Stay tuned for The Oliver Reed Film Festival, Part Three: The '80s 'Til Death.