POST NUMBER ONE – March 23, 2012 – MNS CULTURAL PAGE PRESENTS THE FOURTH MOST UNDERRATED MOVIE OF THE AGES: CHARLEY VARRICK (1973). Ranulph Satyr-Frivoli, movie critic, special to MNS from New York.
It is the belief of this writer that the best villain should have a strong British accent. While some Britons are offended that a self-perceived heroic race such as the inhabitants of the U.K. would produce heels, miscreants and evil-doers in numbers far outstripping all other ethnic and racial groups, not to mention the clearly qualitative difference in the quality and depth of their villainy, other cultural groupings, such as Germans, are delighted that their ancient nemeses, Die Englander, are selected for this particular honor. Oh, the Germans produce wonderful villains, but, they are often limited to amoral scientists whose horrific views of man’s fate is justified by the experiments to which they exposed the innocents.
Which brings us to the subject of the fourth most underrated movie in history. And you probably can tell that the villain in Charley Varrick is the cynosure of the movie. But, what if he’s not English? Well, it just shows to go ya that irony is the essence of life an a good movie.
Walter Matthau can play unusual protagonists with verve and humor. In this role, there’s no humor. But there is some verve.
Imagine a small town in the Southwest of the U.S. with a small bank that Charley Varrick and his confederates want to rob. The bank is so isolated that it cannot have very much money, so, knocking it over will hardly cause much of a ripple in the lives of its depositors most of whom live in trailer parks with only one event to break the monotony of their humdrum lives: the welfare check.
Now imagine Charley’s reaction when he finds out that the bank had more money than he thought.
What if the money belongs to the mob and the bank was a conduit for its money laundering operations? Hmmmm.
Don Siegel directed this movie which casts Andy Robinson as Harman Sullivan, Charley’s loyal but quirky abettor. Andy acquired cinema immortality as the Zodiac killer in Dirty Harry, also directed by Siegel, and is associated with roles that promote the sociopathic side of his persona. In this movie, he kind of reminds you that he could bury someone alive, but, holds back in order to be victimized by another one of Hollywood’s most violent and terrifying villains, Mr. Molly, played to delicious maliciousness by none other than Joe Don Baker. The casting of Baker who kills Sullivan is inspired. I never was satisfied with Dirty Harry’s shooting the Zodiac Killer at the quarry after he was forced to let the little boy loose. I wanted him to die a more painful…even agonizing death.
Here, Siegel spares no human feelings. He knows we want real revenge and he gives it to us with the brutish, monstrous and heartless Mr. Molly. You see, Molly is the enforcer for the mob who is sent to investigate and punish those who violated the sacrosanctity of the bank in question and who made off with the mob’s illicit treasure. And you know he’s not there to merely recover the money. No, that would suggest humanity, hardly the kind of trait we look for in the cosa nostra or the demons they dispatch to correct wrongs.
If you thought the killer in Silent Partner played by Christoper Plummer was scary, just take a gander at Joe Don Baker. I lost two gallons of body fluids cringing in my seat.
There are some interesting twists and turns in the movie as Charley realizes he is being pursued mercilessly by Mr. Molly. His skills as a crop duster pilot come in handy and, in fact, save the day at the very end when all seems lost. But that’s after Mr. Molly has laid waste to so much of this dusty corner of Americana. There is a scene when Molly is to be settled in a room which happens to be inside a brothel. The efforts of the women to give him succour fail because, like the Terminator, he feels nothing for human beings – they are mere props in the search for his principals’s enemies. This is one of cinema’s most exasperatingly truculent menacings – Mr. Molly, evil incarnate….so evil even Christoper Lee or any other British villain comes up an altar boy in comparison. Don’t dis Southern accents!
In the scene above, Matthau and Robinson exchange premonitions of horror as they consider options which Mr. Molly will not abide. I cannot get rid of that “y” under the picture. I feel very disabled right now and need a drink. Why won’t the delete button eliminate it? This is very frustrating.