Saturday, 19 November 2016

ONE-EYED JACKS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Criterion Collection Blu-Ray Does Brando Proud!

You will hear Marlon Brando utter the words:
"Get up, you scum suckin' pig!"
And then, your life will be full.
One-Eyed Jacks (1961)
Dir. Marlon Brando
Scr. Guy Trosper, Calder Willingham
Starring: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Katy Jurado, Pina Pellicer, Ben Johnson,
Sam Gilman, Larry Duran, Slim Pickens, Timothy Carey, Elisha Cook, Hank Worden

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I love One-Eyed Jacks, but there are three things about it that make me sad.

First, it was originally developed with a Sam Peckinpah screenplay for director Stanley Kubrick. A blood-soaked revenge drama in the Old West from those two dudes and starring Marlon Brando is the stuff grand, wild daydreams are made of.

Secondly, given that the aforementioned writer and director were dumped in favour of a new script that would serve as the directorial debut of Brando himself (and that it yielded such a great picture) is all well and good, but what really inspires me to hang my head in sorrow is the legendary 300-minute Brando director's cut that no longer exists in any way, shape or form. That, my friends, is sad. 300 minutes of Brando's mad, inspired and solid direction - lost forever - is not unlike what the world would have been like without Michael Cimino's full cut of Heaven's Gate. Luckily, that does exist and what remains of One-Eyed Jacks is one great 141-minute western.

Finally, we should all lament the fact that Brando directed only one picture.

But what a picture!

The movie opens with Rio (Marlon Brando), his pal/mentor Dad Longworth (Karl Malden) and Doc (the delightful Hank Worden) robbing a bank in Sonora, Mexico. Old Doc is gunned down by Mexican rurales and our two above-the-title stars find themselves holed up on a mountain as the lawmen close in. They only have one horse between them. Rio entrusts Dad to hightail down the hill, get a fresh horse and come back so they can both make their escape.

Ah, but Dad Longworth has other plans. He abandons poor Rio who spends five years of hard time in a Mexican prison. Rio befriends Chico Modesto (Larry Duran) and he's hell-bent on revenge. When he meets scuzzballs Bob Emory (Ben Johnson) and Harvey Johnson (Sam Gilman), he learns than Dad has set himself up nicely in Monterey, California with a big, new, sprawling house, beautiful wife Maria (Katy Jurado) and her "bastard" daughter, the even more beautiful Louisa (Pina Pellicer). Even more galling to Rio is that Dad has become "respectable". He is the Sheriff of Monterey.

This is perfect. Rio plans to rob the Monterey Bank and kill Dad Longworth. As fate would have it, though, Rio falls in love with Louisa. After deflowering her, Dad not only whips Rio viciously in public, but smashes our hero's shooting hand to a pulp.

But this is the Old West - a time when men were men and didn't let things like a broken hand stop them. Time heals all wounds, after all, and once the wounds are healed, a deadly showdown is imminent.

This is one rip-snorting western. Brando's direction is super-taut and the movie is rife with all manner of interesting character details - especially in terms of friendship and loyalty (and lack thereof). The exchanges between Rio and Dad in Monterey are always simmering with a bizarre combination of love and hatred. When Brando accuses Dad of being a "one-eyed Jack" (after all, Dad only shows most people one side of him while always keeping his eye on number one), Rio eventually cuts deep when he coldly looks the villain in the eye and says, "I've seen the other side of your face."

Oh yeah, Dad Longworth is one dirty, two-faced sonofabitch. (And by the way, how come movies today don't have characters with names like "Dad Longworth"?)

Brando's performance is, of course, delightfully insane. Throughout the picture he engages in all sorts of strangely beautiful actions and gestures. He's a hero, alright, but a hero with a difference. Our first taste of Brando is delicious. He's utterly charming, sexy and definitely dangerous. During the initial bank robbery, Rio sits casually on the bank counter eating bananas. Bananas, folks! He's robbing a bank and casually eating bananas. As if this isn't oddball enough, there's a classic Brando moment when he tosses a banana skin on one of the bank's gold scales. He doesn't cotton to things being lopsided. Rio polishes off his second banana and tosses it on the other scale.

Rio believes in balance.

We get other wonderful displays of this. There's an amazing sequence when Rio is appalled with the manner in which a dirty pimp (the great Timothy Carey, so memorable in Kubrick's Paths of Glory) is treating his whore and he exacts just the sort of justice necessary to bring balance to the situation. And who in their right mind could ever forget the scene in which Rio challenges foul Bob Emory to a showdown? "Get up," Rio demands. "Get up you scum suckin' pig."

Good westerns are a dime a dozen. One-Eyed Jacks is a great western. It's easily worth those two saddlebags full of gold that Rio and Dad Longworth steal at the beginning of movie - two bags of gold that lead to plenty of lust, love and blood under those sunny, blue Monterey skies.


One-Eyed Jacks is available on the Criterion Collection with a new 4K digital restoration, undertaken by Universal Pictures in partnership with The Film Foundation and in consultation with filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, a new introduction by Scorsese, excerpts from voice recordings director and star Marlon Brando made during the development of the film’s script, new video essays on the film, a trailer, an essay by film critic Howard Hampton and new cover art by Robert Hunt.