Starring-Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson
Scott’s Review #263
Reviewed August 8, 2015
Directed by John Boorman, (later made famous for the masterpiece Deliverance in 1974), and based on the novel The Hunter, by Donald E. Westlake, Point Blank is a tense crime drama starring Lee Marvin as a man seeking revenge on those who have wronged him. A criminal himself, and involved in the mob world of deals and drugs, he is double-crossed by his partner, who takes off with his wife. A rather obscure film, Point Blank, made in 1967, features obvious influences to classics it preceded (The Getaway, Chinatown, The French Connection, and Dirty Harry immediately spring to mind) and contains some dynamic camera work and art direction. In its day it must have been quite a groundbreaking film.
The film begins in a muddled, confusing way and catches the viewer off guard. We know nothing about any of the characters, who are suddenly introduced via flashbacks, interlaced with present and future scenes, so that immediately chaos and tension fills the story. We know that someone has stabbed someone in the back, but we do not know why or who the players are. The film is set partially at the deserted Alcatraz island (the meeting point for a money drop we later learn) and then moves to Los Angeles. Early on we realize that Marvin’s character (Walker) has been tricked, shot, and left for dead by his partner Mal (John Vernon), who takes off with Walker’s share of cash…and his troubled wife Lynne.
Hell-bent on seeking revenge (and his money) on Mal and his wife (Lynne), he attempts to track the duo down using any means necessary, leading to the introduction of pivotal and mysterious characters such as Lynne’s sister Chris (played by Angie Dickinson), and Crime Organization leaders Carter and Brewster (played by Lloyd Bochner and Carroll O’Connor, respectively).
With little blood or covert violence, the film instead uses tense action scenes, a great style, and is told in a non-linear way. One favorite scene involves Walker taking a new car for a test drive as a way of interrogating the salesman for information. As he terrorizes the salesman he repeatedly slams the car into a pole using the cars reverse and drive gears, increasing in intensity with each attempt by the salesman to avoid answering Walker’s questions.
Two other scenes that stand out to me and deserve mention are as follows- when a naked villain is non-chalantly tossed from a penthouse apartment to his death on the street and subsequently becomes wedges under a passing car the scene is as much startling as is well shot especially considering the year was only 1967. In another scene, Lynne is at the beauty salon having her makeup and hair done by a stylist. Her face is captured in the mirror and the camera allows the viewer to see a dozen or so images of the mirror layered on top of one another. This looks great, inventive, and is a good example of some superlative camera shots that occur throughout the film.
A few interesting tidbits that I pondered following the film. Was the elevator scene containing Angie Dickinson (almost meaningless to Point Blank) the inspiration for the very famous elevator scene from 1980’s Dressed to Kill? Only Dressed to Kill’s director, Brian De Palma, would know the answer to that question. How interesting to see Carroll O’Connor (later universally famous for portraying TV’s “Archie Bunker”) as a crime lord. Even though Point Blank was made before All in the Family premiered, it was tough to find him believable in this role. Finally, I loved the scenes set high atop Los Angeles, in a gorgeous high-rise apartment- the sophisticated living room furniture arrangement and colors are great visual treats.
Taut, intense, and interesting, though admittedly a plot not always made crystal clear nor easy to follow, the film came along at a time in film when edgier, more experimental films were beginning to be released, which makes Point Blank a groundbreaking and influential film that undoubtedly helped bring about other crime dramas to follow.