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The Chase

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    Horace Cordier
    Senior Member

  • Chase, The




    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: October 18th, 2016.
    Director: Arthur Penn
    Cast: Angie Dickenson, E.G. Marshall, James Fox, Jane Fonda, Janice Rule, Marlon Brando, Robert Redford
    Year: 1966
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:


    Considering its cast and pedigree alone, it really is quite amazing how forgotten 1966's THE CHASE is. Directed by Arthur Penn (THE MIRACLE WORKER, BONNIE AND CLYDE, NIGHT MOVES) with a screenplay penned by the legendary Lillian Hellman and based on a play by a Horton Foote, on paper this looks unforgettable. And that cast I mentioned earlier? How's this for a truly astounding mix of that era's biggest draws and soon to be household names? Marlon Brando, Angie Dickinson, Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, James Fox, E.G. Marshall, Robert Redford. THE CHASE also features stellar work from seasoned pros like Jocelyn Brando (Marlon's talented sister), the ridiculously sexy Janice Rule (who despite her looks had years of experience) and the great Henry (Hitchcock's LIFEBOAT) Hull's final screen appearance. And it contains John (STAR WARS) Barry's first American film score.

    A small southern town run like a benevolent fiefdom by the filthy rich bank magnate/oil baron Val Rogers (E.G. Marshall) and his restless son Jake (Fox) is dealing with a bit of drama - local "bad boy" Bubber Reeves (a terribly miscast Robert Redford) has just escaped from the local state prison and is probably headed back to his home town to try to make surreptitious contact with his wife Anna (Jane Fonda - the film's other struggling performance). Unfortunately for Bubber he is about to be dealt one piece of really bad luck coupled with some bad news. The first is the murder of an innocent driver that will be pinned on him by the moronic accomplice he made his jailbreak with, and the second will be his discovery of the town's worst kept secret - his wife's affair with Jake Rodgers. Further complicating matters is that the town is a hotbed of immoral sexual shenanigans with the only moral compass being deeply ambivalent Sheriff Calder (Marlon Brando). Bank VP Edwin (Robert Duvall) has his hands full with siren wife Emily (Rule), who is having a tawdry affair with the town's dapper racist Damon Fuller (Richard Bradford). Once the town gets the idea that 'ol Bubber has gone full killer, a mob mentality starts to take shape. Can the sheriff bring Calder in safely? And what part will the random teenage kids partying in the town play in all of this?

    The plot of THE CHASE is very much an overheated melodrama laced with the kind of liberal moralizing that was very prevalent in this hallowed film era. On that front, despite Hellman's participation, it misses the mark of truly excellent fare like JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG. Scuttlebutt had it that there was a lot of free-floating tension around this film related to producer Sam Spiegal's refusal to allow Penn a view of the final edit and the rewrites the money man had done on the Hellman script. Star Brando hated his character which he referred to as "old lamplighter" in reference to all the aimless walking around he saw the character as doing. This is also a long film that struggles to maintain pace and suffers from its artificial appearance. This was a backlot production that very much looks it.

    But this one really is an onion. There's a lot to be gained from a critical peeling of this film. The more you analyze it, the more fascinating it becomes. First there's the acting. Brando is truly compelling in a way that's oddly polarizing - either you go with the mumble-mouthed yet carefully calibrated performance or you don't. But you don't forget it either. There's a lazy big cat-like quality to his work here. He looks sleepy, but it's a ruse and he's a powder keg just waiting to go off. Playing a man of principle who everyone wrongly believes is a sellout to the highest bidder, he's filled with both rage and pride. But he also has the best marriage in the film with a loyal and smart spouse (Angie Dickinson) who he's truly simpatico with. Marshall's tycoon is another brilliant portrayal with the actor conveying an amazing mix of the pathetic and the entitled. Fox is handsome and tormented but never dull and the film's other standout is Robert Duvall doing an incredibly effective job of playing a nerdy passive-aggressive mouse of a man. It's an ocean apart from his quietly steely consigliere in THE GODFATHER or his dominating operative in Peckinpah's KILLER ELITE. The town's racists are pretty impressive as is the supremely sexy Janice Rule, who manages to turn the act of casually removing one's shoes at a party into sensual foreplay. And boy can she dance. Deficits in the acting department? Redford - at this point in his career almost the ultimate horseshoe up the ass (credit to Paul Newman for that great quote!) actor is pretty but wooden. As any kind of badass he's ludicrous. The actor would later learn his A game for fare like THE WAY WE WERE, but here he's just a damp squib. And Jane Fonda is the epitome of blank Hollywood glamour - shoehorned into a sex-kittenish role that struggles for depth. She just isn't up to it and really wouldn't find her stride until 1971's KLUTE.

    The film's party scenes capture a sort of frenetic energy well and then there's THAT scene... with Marlon Brando. The sheriff suffers a beating in this film that is so prolonged and violent that the viewer never forgets it. Shocking today, one can only imagine how it played to an audience in a pre-WILD BUNCH world. The fact that Brando plays it to the hilt with a masochistic method actor relish only adds to the discomfort. But yet this scene, unlike the film's slightly ridiculous flaming tires teenage junkyard party at the film's conclusion, seems right. It's the culmination of the town's bullying nature and the sheriff's self loathing. The film's negro with a heart of gold for our beleaguered white convict trope and its heavy handed ploy to draw parallels with some of the era's political tragedies doesn't sit too well today either. But there's a lot to digest here and it's easy to see why this film, while mostly forgotten, has developed a bit of a cult with attendant critical studies over the years.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Twilight Time's 1080p 2.35:1 framed AVC encoded is a damn fine piece of work. THE CHASE, thanks to cinematographer Joseph LaShelle's propensity for lush and juicy color is a pretty preppy affair visually in its daytime scenes. The outdoor backlot sequences - Bubber's escape on the road and on a train, the oilfield that Rodgers Jr. visits and others, all look natural and organic with great clarity. The transfer also excels in the many nighttime scenes with excellent clarity and deep black levels. Film grain appears natural and well-resolved, and fine detail, especially in facial closeups, is stellar. Just take a look at Brando's mug after that beating. Finally, no digital sharpening or manipulation is visible. This is another winner on the transfer front.

    Audio is a stalwart DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track of which there is little to say other than that it's a solid track with nice presence and no audible distortion. Range is surprisingly good for a mono track with a full-bodied feel. Barry's score also gets an isolated track - a welcome staple of Twilight Time's extras for their discs.

    The extras consist of the film's theatrical trailer, insightful Julie Kirgo liner notes and another first rate Twilight Time commentary track. This one features historians Kirgo, Nick Redman and Lem Dobbs. To be crude, these three know their shit cold and it's a fascinating listen. They discuss the film's troubled history, career trajectories of the various figures involved in the production and it's bizarre mix of the great and the misguided. Dobbs participation is particularly fascinating because he worked directly with Redford professionally and has some great stories. It's also interesting to hear film music expert Redman lay out the case AGAINST the Barry score. His explanation as to why he finds it an inferior Barry work is certainly compelling. There's also humor here with the telling of James Fox's traumatizing experience working on Donald Camnell's PERFORMANCE. A lively and insightful track.

    The Final Word:

    Ultimately, THE CHASE was a bit of a missed opportunity considering the talent on the table. But it remains oddly compelling and fascinating on many levels. Twilight Time's Blu looks like a million bucks and features a great commentary track. Recommended with reservations. Anyone already a fan or those with a particular interest in this cinematic era shouldn't wait though.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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