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In the wake of his Cannes Best Director award for The General, Boorman's
stunning debut has been released with a new print. Unrelentingly downbeat,
this stylish crime thriller made in 1967 seems to have fuelled virtually
Elmore Leonard novel.
Steely, panther-like hitman Walker (marvellous Marvin) has been fitted up, shot at and had $93,0000 stolen from him all because of ex-pal Mal Reese (John Vernon). A tad upset he decides to resurrects himself, with the help of the shadowy Yost (Keenan Wynn) for revenge and his payment.
Boorman greets us with a five-minute sequence that is crammed with curious camera angles, fractured time-lines and carefully constructed compositions. We're bombarded by a montage of piercingly violent images blended together with fragments of a failed heist on Alcatraz Island and a pair of slugs ripping into Walker's body. We're only privy to these flash snippets of information, but they're still enough to help us empathise with Marvin's masterly obsessive.
A year or two later Walker is on a tourist boat trip to Alcatraz, being propositioned by Yost. The creepy Yost knows where Mal and his Walker ex-wife Lynne (Sharon Acker) are and is willing to reveal this to him, just as long as he receives some information on a shadowy body called "The Organisation". Walker simply nods. His dialogue is minimal, his obsession is reflected through his curt questions, his sudden movements, his eyes and the flashbacks that haunt him.
When he catches up with his cheating ex-wife he allows her to talk uninterrupted in a desperate, forlorn monotone - "He's gone. Cold. Moved out," she says. Walker barely takes it in, all that motivates him is the thought, "Somebody's gotta to pay."
While others flounder, Marvin appears impenetrable like one of Sergio Leone's cowboys. Only Clint Eastwood never conveyed this much emotion in his movements.
Boorman's seminal film preceded the spate of fabulous paranoia flicks that enriched 70s American cinema The Conversation, The Parallax View, All The President's Men where a shadowy "Organisation" pulls the nation's strings. Tarantino has since appropriated this organisation theme on a small-time level, plagarising the black suits and the unwavering professionalism of the violence. De Niro's ex-con in Jackie Brown is based on Marvin's Walker, as are countless other performances.
Even Angie Dickinson, playing Lynne's sister Chris, leaves him cold. In a remarkable scene she resorts to repeatedly slamming Walker's immovable slab of a chest. He remains impregnable, emotionally void. She keeps on punching until she finally collapses on the floor in a heap. They finally make love, only for the isolation, the loss of identity, to continue. Is he an avenging angel? Is he there at all?
"Hey, what's my last name?" asks a post-coital Chris. "What's my first name?" he deadpans, answering a question with another question. Always seeking answers, never providing them. No love left in him, only a need for payment.
Point Blank contains inspiring visuals, a haunting soundtrack and some stunning acting. Fabulous, groundbreaking cinema. --Ben Walsh
Point Blank is one of those lost gems from the 1960's. It got buried because it was released around the same time as Bonnie and Clyde. This film combines all the great elements of the American action film with flourishes of European art house cinema. John Boorman's direction is excellent, and not enough can be said about Lee Marvin's performance. This is without question one of Lee's best tough guy performances. I don't understand how the previous reviewer can say this film seems "dated" and "funny for all the wrong reasons". It is as fresh and interesting as it was back at the time of its release. Those looking for it on DVD may want to know that the widescreen format version appears on TCM occasionally. You may want to pop in a tape the next time it is on until the DVD finally comes out.
I first saw this movie when I was in college in the Seventies. I viewed
the film again in 2001. The power of the film was the same on my
senses. Several reasons come up: British Director John Boorman was at
his best trying to outdo Don Siegel's The Killers (1967)-which also
stars Marvin and Dickinson in somewhat similar roles. I will really be
surprised if Boorman denies that he was not influenced by the Siegel
Why did Point Blank make an impact on me? Was it Lee Marvin's raw machismo? No. It was Boorman, who gave cinema a brilliant essay on alienation. When Dickinson's Chris asks Marvin's Walker 'What's my last name?' after a bout of sex and gets a repartee 'What's my first name?' you can argue the alienation is embedded in the dialog. But Boorman's cinema includes the loud footsteps of a determined Walker on the soundtrack, somewhat like Godard in Alpahaville, contrasting bright wide open spaces for the exchange of money that goes according to plan and closed dimly lit confines of Alcatraz for those that go wrong. There is laconic humor without laughter, pumping bullets into an empty bed, guards who narrowly miss Marvin going up the lift, the car salesman's interest in an attractive customer than in his job, the sharpshooter's smug satisfaction not realizing that he has got the wrong man The list is endless.
The camera-work of Philip Lathrop is inventive, but was it Lathrop or Boorman that made the visual appeal of the Panavision format of this film come alive?
Viewing the film in 2001, several points emerge. $93,000 was important to Walker, nothing more nothing less. But was it money he was after or was it the value of an agreement among thieves? The open ended finale runs parallel to the end of an Arthur Penn film (also on alienation)called "Night Moves" made some 10 years later. What surprises me is how a good movie like Point Blank never won an award or even an Oscar nomination.
When I worked in a psychiatric hospital I noticed that one or two of
the patients had a peculiar tendency to stand up, start walking
purposefully across the ward, stop and look around, then begin walking
just as purposefully in another direction, then sit down again. A kind
of ambulatory non sequitur.
This whole movie is like that. I mean that to be a compliment. People break up the interactive script they've initiated and do something completely unpredictable. I'll just give one example. Walker (Marvin) and his companion (Angie Dickenson) have an argument and she begins whacking him across the head with her purse. At first he guards himself with his arms but then lowers them and stands silently and without any expression as she beats him, slaps him, and pounds his chest, finally slumping to the floor exhausted. At that, he strides wordlessly to the couch, plops down, turns on the TV and begins surfing the channels.
It's a neo-noir film if there ever was one. There is betrayal, a false woman, suicide, multiple double crosses, revenge, an urban setting, and an ambiguous ending.
So, although it is a genre film, it is nevertheless unique. Everything comes together. The production designer gives us sterile urban vistas, featuring bland cement boxes and the Los Angeles River, without which no noir would be complete. The apartments these people live in look like ordinary arid gray middle-class bourgeois digs. Wardrobe, too, has fitted these performers out in ordinary suits and ties, and the women are always rather chic looking.
The direction and editing are splendid. I'll give an example of what I mean here, too. Lee Marvin throws John Vernon out on the roof of his penthouse, wrapped only in a bed sheet. Vernon begins to tumble over the edge, Marvin grabs for him but winds up holding only the sheet while Vernon plunges some dozen floors to the street below. (His body winds up impossibly intact. A cat might have survived such a fall but a full-grown man would have splashed.) In an ordinary movie, we'd get a cut from the body hitting the street to Marvin staring down at it over the railing. But here, Marvin is still holding the sheet. Not only that but it's WINDY on the fourteenth floor roof and the wind is whipping the sheet up into billows around Marvin, like some demonic object with its own malevolent life force, before he is finally able to unwrap himself and fling it away.
The editing gives us a couple of brief flashbacks, but not just to evoke a mood. They are instrumental in letting us know what Marvin is thinking. Marvin is holding a gun to his ex-pal's, Vernon's, face and the poor guy faints until Marvin slaps him awake, and then he begs Marvin to trust him. A flashback lasting only a few seconds reminds us of an earlier scene in which Vernon begged Marvin's help in carrying out a heist and shouted at him, "Walker! Trust me!" The editing is so precise that in this -- and in a dozen other scenes -- a few seconds more or less would drain them of their impact.
The score is by Johnny Mandel, an arranger and composer whose work I've admired for years. He was a child prodigy, played both trumpet and trombone with Tommy Dorsey's band before turning to composing and arranging. He's never edgy or irritating. His music is smooth and melodic and sometimes strangely orchestrated. Here he suits his talents to the demands of the scene. When a man is trying to seduce a woman, a romantic piano melody tinkles behind them. At other times, again depending on the context, the score glides from Henry Mancini to Gil Evans. Nicely done.
So is the acting. Marvin has been this good in other films but never better. The plot has to do with his regaining $93,000 that "the organization" has cheated him out of. (There is no mafia-ness to the movie. The only foreign language we hear is Portugese.) And $93K was a lot of money then. You could find gas at 29 cents a gallon. Marvin more or less kills his way up the ladder searching for someone in a position to "pay me my money." He finally gets to Carrol O'Connor who explains to him that in a huge corporation like this, nobody ever handles any money. O'Connor has got maybe eleven dollars in his wallet. And Marvin, holding a gun on him, hesitates and looks genuinely put out -- puzzled, the way a child might be puzzled by a disappointing reply. ("No, there's no Santa Claus.") I think I'll leave it at that before I run out of space. I've pretty much skipped the plot but that must be adequately covered elsewhere. Besides, the plot is either extremely simple or very complicated indeed, depending on how far you want your conjectures to dig. (Is the whole movie nothing more than the fantasy of Marvin as he lies dying on Alcatraz after being shot at the beginning of the story? See what I mean?) Don't miss it.
Still packs a whallop after all of these years, this was undoubtably a big
influence on all the tough-loner-on-quest-for-revenge movies to come.
really interesting is how Marvin's unemotional and seldom speaking
is quite fascinating. Instead of him being bland, we keep studying, somehow
trying to find SOMETHING behind his cold stare.
Though tough, this movie is not without a sense of humor, though it's quite subtle, such as the test drive sequence. It's good stuff, though I did have one problem; the ending is quite confusing. I am sure other viewers will not quite be able to determine what's going on.
Tough and brutal, that best describes Boorman's excellent
Lee Marvin is perfect as a man who is out for revenge. The story is quite
raw, it features flashbacks which haunt the character. The ending sums up
the character, but you'll need to see it to find out for
The supporting cast is very good, but this Marvin's baby and he is
Boorman makes full use of the widescreen frame. Watching in full frame ruins the entire picture. You have only truly seen Point Blank if you've viewed in widescreen.
Love it, great film.
For one thing, POINT BLANK, directed by British director John Boorman, has all the good looks of the various movements of the European New Wave, but walks the walk and talks the talk of an American thriller, and I mean that as a good thing. Boorman's brilliantly composed combination of European artfulness with film-noir elements make for an exceptionally rich and multi-layered crime thriller.
Lee Marvin, in typically emotionless fashion, is the remorseless Walker who, after pulling off a successful heist from the mob, is double-crossed, shot and left for dead in the now abandoned Alcatraz prison by his wife (Sharon Acker) and his partner-in-crime (John Vernon). Walker survives, escapes and moves to LA, where he kills his way up the ladder of a vaguely defined organized crime syndicate called "The Organization", hardly distinguishable from a legitimate cooperate business, in order to get his $93,000, occasionally aided by his sister, Chris (a great Angie Dickinson), who seems to know Walker's targets pretty well.
Philip Wisethrop's widescreen compositions are absolutely stunning. One of the most impressive scenes is when Walker is fighting two hoods in a nightclub, against a swirling psychedelic backdrop, to the strains of the R&B houseband, with its black singer hysterically shouting letting the mostly white clientèle shout with him in his microphone. But every scene is a marvel to watch, with every detail painstakingly composed without getting stiff or forced in any way. Even the car windows are almost unrealistically spotless, in order to film Walker through the glass with the reflections of the city on his face.
The film is packed with all kinds of surreal surroundings and lots of flashbacks concerning Walker's past. Boorman's games with narrative time, with extensive use of echoing flashbacks and jump-cuts, are the perfect reflection of Walker's dream-like struggle for justice, He's the typical tragic (noir)-hero, in a perpetual struggle to grasp what happened to him. He desperately tries to comprehend the situation he's in, but hasn't got a clue who's who and his outdated moral codes make him seem an even bigger anomaly in the modern corporate world he works his way into.
Whether this is all actually happening or it's all a mind-spin inside Walker's head is impossible to say. Best to enjoy the ride in this true genre classic, definitely one of the best American thrillers of the '60s. If you get the chance, watch it together with Melville's LE SAMOURAI (1967) and Seijun Suzuki's BRANDED TO KILL (1967), in many ways its French and Japanese counterparts.
Camera Obscura --- 9/10
Point Blank kind of came and went in theaters but I can't imagine anyone who saw it in 1967 left forgetting John Boorman's tough and beautiful film. A simple story told in a very stylish and, at times, surreal manner. Though the storyline is a variation on "revenge" themes, it is Boorman's images that open it up and find pay-dirt. Images of Lee Marvin emptying his pistol in slow motion, the sound of footsteps over a string of pictures that curdle the mind, and the seemingly limitless use of rawness perfectly realized in the action and performance by Marvin and,interestingly, Angie Dickinson. There is a wonderful conflict between the primal Marvin and the Corporate Crime world which he cannot understand. Marvin knows survival of the fittest- not the richest. It's hypnotic and aggressive. Boorman balances perfectly on the line between the two.
Point Blank(1967) is a early feature by John Boorman who would go on to direct Deliverance(1972), Excalibur(1981), and The General(1998). It is an excellent noir about a man who's betrayed and left for dead who goes after the outfit that owes him money. Point Blank is a tightly constructed thriller with brillient montage and mise-en-scene. The film does a good job at showing the phychodelic colors of late 1960's San Fransico. Lee Marvin in this movie shows why he is one of the best Hollywood tough guys of all time. It is much better than the remake Payback(1999) because of Lee Marvin's presence and the masterful editing and camera work of the film.
This was a movie made for Marvin. Whether by design or by accident it matters not, this was the perfect vehicle for probably the only authentic believable actor as well qualified to play this type of screen role. Marvin looked like your average definition of a gangster, thug,slick operator, tough guy call it what you will and had the physique, persona, acting skills etc to carry the role and excel in it. Marvin acted above himself in this movie as he did in The Killers several years prior & reunited with Dickinson in the process something that added a special thread throughout the movie.There was sadly not enough of these types of roles to enable Marvin to display his obvious talent in portraying these types of screen characters but there was just enough to wet our apetite for more. Point Blank was probably the pick of them before Marvins career sidetracked to other areas which to my mind while it may have added to his body of work did not amply display to us the full talents of this contemporary one off actor the like of which I sadly fear we will never be fortunate enough to see again. That being said the movie was also notable for many other brilliant performances principally Lloyd Bochner, Carol O,connor & John Vernon who also possessed some of the qualities attributed to Marvin although not on the same scale or intensity.All In all a movie worth watching for a number of reasons. Lee we miss you. Heaven must be a gass with you & cassavetes steve Mcqueen etc.
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