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Thursday, March 28, 2013

99 AND 44/100% DEAD (1974)

Richard Harris makes an unlikely ultra-efficient hitman in this half-baked Mob vs. Mob story. John Frankenheimer tries to bind up Post-Watergate cynicism, Looney Tunes absurdity and slick violence in this lethal tale of gang-war attrition between two big city Mob Kings, Edmund O’Brien & Bradford Dillman. For a hefty fee, Harris joins O’Brien’s outfit, reconnecting with dishy newcomer Ann Turkel when he’s not dashing thru one of Frankenheimer’s handsome action set pieces. But in spite of all the sound & fury, the plot gets no deeper than a Road Runner cartoon, and Frankenheimer stays disconnected from everything except the film mechanics. As professional self-protection? On the other hand, Harris, if anything, tries too hard . . . at being Michael Caine. If only he had Caine’s trick of coasting thru programmers as well as Caine’s signature thick-framed eye-glasses. And the poor man is all but crucified by his hair, a ‘combo-pate’ pairing his receding top with a pageboy on the sides. As his gal pal, Turkel, a fashion model in her first major role, is a stunningly bad actress (Harris soon married her) while O"Brien, in his last film role, is game, but looks a very old 60. Only Brad Dillman really gets something going, playing his arch-nemesis with an Elmer Fudd ‘R’-challenged speech impediment. Frankenheimer took note and gave him a big, showy finish.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Henry Mancini also got in the swing of things, holding fast to his jaunty theme music even as the violence & grue accumulate.

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