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Friday, May 29, 2009

THE REIVERS (1969)


The second William Faulkner adaptation from scripters Irving Ravetch & Harriet Frank works almost as well as their first, THE LONG HOT SUMMER/’58. This is Faulkner in a happy, nostalgic mode, looking back to his Southern childhood in a manner similar to Eugene O’Neill in his rose-colored coming-of-age tale, AH WILDERNESS! There’s a fine yellow roadster to ‘borrow’ for a trip; a white & a black handyman to share the adventure; a friendly whore house to stay at; a horse race to win (twice!); and some life lessons to learn. Alas, newbie megger Mark Rydell treats the material far too broadly, as if he’s making a deep fried version of THE MUSIC MAN; and he encourages everyone, even a minimalist actor like Steve McQueen, to overplay. Watching McQueen twinkle with delight is downright scary. The last third of the pic drops the forced merriment and you see what a great film this material, even this screenplay, might have made. The wonderful combination of score & narration from John Williams and Burgess Meredith is already working on that level. And, as McQueen’s ‘colored’ rival & pal, Rupert Crosse gives a racially charged, yet merrily unselfconscious perf all but unheard of for the era. His early death robbed us all.

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