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The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

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A proud strip club owner is forced to come to terms with himself as a man, when his gambling addiction gets him in hot water with the mob, who offer him only one alternative.

Director:

John Cassavetes

Writer:

John Cassavetes
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ben Gazzara ... Cosmo Vittelli
Timothy Carey ... Flo (as Timothy Agoglia Carey)
Seymour Cassel ... Mort Weil
Robert Phillips ... Phil
Morgan Woodward ... The Boss
John Kullers John Kullers ... The Accountant (as John Red Kullers)
Al Ruban Al Ruban ... Marty Reitz
Azizi Johari Azizi Johari ... Rachel
Virginia Carrington Virginia Carrington ... Mama
Meade Roberts Meade Roberts ... Mr. Sophistication
Alice Friedland Alice Friedland ... Sherry
Donna Gordon Donna Gordon ... Margo Donnar (as Donna Marie Gordon)
Haji ... Haji
Carol Warren Carol Warren ... Carol
Derna Wong Davis Derna Wong Davis ... Derna
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Storyline

Cosmo Vitelli owns the Crazy Horse West, a strip joint in California. He's laconic, a Korean War vet, and a gambler. When we meet him, he's making his last payment on a gambling debt. Then, he promptly loses $23,000 playing poker at an illegal local casino. The guys he owes this time aren't so friendly, pressuring him for immediate payment. Then they suggest that he kill a Chinese bookie to wipe off the debt. Vitelli and the film move back and forth between the double-crossing, murderous insincerity of the gamblers and the friendships, sweetness, and even love among Vitelli, the dancers, a dancer's mother, and the club's singer, Mr. Sophistication. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 October 1977 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

Mordet på en kinesisk bookmaker See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Faces Distribution See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1978 Re-Release)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the picture's original 135 minute cut from its 1976 first release, show-business trade paper 'Variety' reported that "there's no cinematography credit" for a director of photography. See more »

Quotes

Cosmo Vitelli: I've got a golden life. Got the world by the balls. That's right, I'm great... I am amazing.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Meurtre d'un broutemécouilles chinois (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Rainy Fields of Frost and Magic
(uncredited)
Written by Bo Harwood
Played during the audition
See more »

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User Reviews

 
It's hard not to be engaged by something this authentic
24 November 2009 | by bob_megSee all my reviews

It's been said by many that "Chinese Bookie" is the toughest of any Cassavetes films to digest. There are many slow passages (here I'm referring to the 1976 original version), many moments of embarrassing awkwardness, as you are forced to watch extended sequences filled with players who aren't any more talented or skilled than those at your local summer stock production or junior high school play.

Yet, it's very difficult not to be compelled by the story, especially as embodied in the character of Cosmo Vitelli, who Ben Gazzara seems to channel effortlessly, as if he were a second, transparent skin.

Cosmo is a fascinating character. He owns a rather ratty strip club/cabaret joint on the Sunset Strip that fronts production values and performers of the qualities mentioned earlier, does middling business, and spends nearly every dime he makes "living the high life" or the "the image" of what someone in his profession should espouse. He swills $100 bottles of Champagne, cruises around town in his plush chauffeured Caddy, an entourage of bimbettes in tow, usually to a dive mob-run poker joint that inevitably lands him in massive debt.

He would be an easy character to scorn or mock in another film, but not as Gazzara and Cassavetes portray him. Cosmo is proud of his little world and his accomplishments, and further more, could not give a damn if anyone doesn't approve of them. "You have no style," he sneers at gangster Al Ruban early in the film after the thug condescends to him.

As weird as it sounds, you have to respect someone like that, even when he finds himself increasingly trapped by circumstances and succumbing to self-doubt. At the end of the picture he says how important it is to "feel comfortable" with oneself and while we don't believe for a second that Cosmo really feels this way, we know he *wants* to. It's a refreshingly human response in a movie that only contains more of the same.

It's not a conventional audience pleaser by any means, but if you've watched other Cassavetes pictures and like his candid stream-of-consciousness style, give the 1978 edited version of "Bookie" a watch before you see the original. Cass not only cut half an hour of footage, he did it with (what else?) incredible style and creativity, really tightening the structure of the film as a whole, considerably juicing its already engaging premise.

Quite possibly the most overlooked gem from one of the '60s and '70s most commercially under-appreciated directors.


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