Tag Archives: 1975

Review of Capone (1975)

18 Mar

caponeCapone (1975) is a crime/drama/biographical film, loosely based on the life of Al Capone.

Directed by Steve Carver (Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), Big Bad Mama (1974)).

Written by Howard Browne (The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967), Mission: Impossible (1966 TV)).

Starring: Ben Gazzara, Susan Blakely, Harry Guardino, Sylvester Stallone, Harry Guardino, John Cassavetes and others.

So here’s a Roger Corman produced Al Capone biopic. It is about as accurate as Death Race 2000 was a prediction of the year 2000.

Doesn’t happen so often with American movies, I was pleasantly surprised to see Vilis Lapenieks, a director of photography from my small home country, Latvia, appear in the opening credits. Had it been the closing credits, I would be unpleasantly surprised, because the movie excels at looking totally bland.

In the first scene I noticed that the sound editing was not so great, often the background noise cuts with the shots, it is a bit jarring, but it either improved later or I got used to it, so I wasn’t that bothered by it. It’s far from Birdemic levels of sound direction incompetence.

It sort of is a biopic, but it explores Al Capone’s life as much as the original Scarface. I would have liked if they had spent a little time developing and showing more Capone’s backstory and character, instead of instantly throwing him in to rapidly climb the mobster career ladder by punching and shooting select people.

Also there’s very little sense of passing time because they don’t really manage to make Ben Gazzara look much younger in the earlier scenes.That is not to say Gazzara is bad here. For this larger than life portrayal of the person he is ok. He achieves a convincingly menacing performance, selling the simmering anger even when he is smiling and being polite. Since he’s not provided with any redeeming qualities, he serves not as a complex anti-hero, but a one-note villain pushed into the protagonist’s position.

At times he seems to be drifting through the movie only to engage in instances of outbursts of rage, otherwise taking a step back to various mob dealings, that I failed to care about. Some of the scenes are delivered just as plot progressions being explained, leaving the viewer uninterested and distanced.

If you, like me, decide to watch this because Sylvester Stallone is in it, be aware, he appears pretty late into the movie and is not featured as prominently as you might imagine. He briefly manages to breathe some life into the movies, but it’s pretty much a lost cause.

"Wow, Stallone playing Al Capone? That should be interesting!"

“Wow, Stallone playing Al Capone? That should be interesting!”

 

However this is not at all surprising because it is after all a Corman movie and could be classified as exploitation (mobsploitation, if you will), than an actual historical retelling. But the problem is that it takes itself too seriously, no doubt inspired by The Godfather films.

So it’s not cheesy enough to be entertaining as a B-grade gangster flick. I kept tuning out during the dull dialogue scenes and not getting excited at the repetitive drive-by shootouts. At some points even using footage from another movie, which is of obviously lower, both sound and image quality.

Overall, this is a shitty gangster flick, that except for Sly being in it, fails to have anything remarkable about it to make it worth watching. Not recommended.

"That's right, smile, Ben. One day, I'm going to be the reason people watch this movie."

“That’s right, smile, Ben. One day, I’m going to be the reason people watch this movie.”

Review of Death Race 2000 (1975)

2 Oct

Death Race 2000 (1975) – is a sci-fi/action/dark comedy film,  based on the short story The Racer by Ib Melchior.

Directed by Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul (1982), Cannonball! (1976)), a moderately successful low-budget director.

Written by Robert Thom (Wild in the Streets (1968), Bloody Mama (1970)) and Charles B. Griffith (The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), The Wild Angels (1966)).

Starring: David Carradine, Sylvester Stallone, Simone Griffeth, Martin Kove, Mary Woronov, John Landis and others.

Essentially the movie is just about this racing event that takes place in a dystopian future (well, not now, because it is set in the year 2000) America, where it is just about the greatest form of entertainment there is and the society has degraded and have so little regard for human life that they watch an event, where contestants are awarded points if they run over people, the more vulnerable the target the better, so you should watch out for people in wheelchairs, they’re the bullseye.

This is basically The Running Man of the 70’s, so yeah, it’s over-the-top and cheesy, but in the good way. It has B-movie cult classic written all over it. It comments on the similar themes about entertainment, the game-show culture, the violence on TV, but it also attacks one specific group of people – the NASCAR fans. I think it’s no secret that a lot of people who watch it, really expect the cars to crash at some point, that has become in some ways  more interesting than the winner of the race, but it’s just human nature, even if we acknowledge it intellectually, there’s something emotionally that wants the thrill of it. It is questionable how surely the movie walks the line of satire without falling into condoning the characters.

Most fun was watching Sylvester Stallone playing a constantly spitting and screaming asshole. He overacts so ridiculously it becomes very entertaining. And then he also ass-rapes a construction worker with a huge sword mounted on his car. And he punches a woman and then strangles a woman and then has his ass handed to him by David Carradine, who despite his comical S&M gimp outfit is still pretty cool. It briefly features a young Martin Kove.

The movie’s low budget is rather apparent, the cars look really cheap and cheesy, there’s almost no attempt to make anything look even slightly futuristic or just not  70’s, TV reporters have microphones, that strongly resemble sex toys, not even slightly realistic matte paintings and so on, but that just adds to the reasons why people enjoy movies like this.

I must give credit to the racing scenes. Those Fast And Furious guys could learn a thing or two about car racing movies, because I was a lot more excited in this than in any of those movies, where Paul Walker refuses to act.

Overall, I found it quite enjoyable. Recommended for B-movie genre fans or if you want to see Sly’s early work as long as you don’t take it seriously, because the filmmakers clearly didn’t.

Sly will tommygun the shit out of you (if you don’t get sword-raped in the ass instead)