Friday, December 16, 2011

Madigan (1968)

This is a rather intriguing cop movie starring Richard Widmark and Henry Fonda. Spoiler-filled review follows....

Okay, this really is it. I've had it! Henry Fonda in a movie with an actor I love = death for the actor I love's character. Seriously, this just keeps happening! Yeah, that means Richard Widmark got it. I should have known going into the film this would happen. I think Warlock lulled me into thinking Widmark was okay in Fonda's company (although okay is relative in that movie, but at least he didn't die) . Nope, no such luck.

Anyway, this was an interesting, rather different film. Simple plot -- Widmark and his partner, played by Harry Guardino, get surprised by the murderer they're trying to bring in. Bad guy takes their guns and gets away clean. Widmark and Guardino are given 72 hours to catch him by the police commissioner (Fonda). That's really the whole plot. What I found rather unusual about the film is that it just drops you into the middle of things, never explains anything. The plot may be simple, but the characters are not. They're in the middle of affairs and potential scandals that have nothing to do with finding the escaped murderer. It's just stuff going on in these character's lives. I kind of expected things to tie together, but they didn't. This film is much more like "Three Days in the Lives of a Few Cops" than anything else. That made it rather frustrating and ultimately a bit unsatisfying, but also intriguing and energetic at the same time. Characters have all sorts of history together we're not privy to, that affects their behavior and relationships, and you just have to pick it up as you go. Gotta love that, even if it's all a bit sordid.

Things I loved about this movie: The cast! Richard Widmark, naturally, but Harry Guardino was also a welcome sight. There's also James Whitmore, Bert Freed (yay!), Michael Dunn, Warren Stevens, Steve Ihnat, Woodrow Parfrey, and Inger Stevens. Henry Fonda seemed very dour and wooden and one expression the whole time. I wanted a few more fireworks at a couple points, but that's okay.

The New York locations looked great.

I loved that the happily married family man was not the one to get killed for once. Usually, the minute characters start talking about the wife and kids and how happy they are, they get a big red target painted on them.

I loved the scene where Richard Widmark runs into Henry Fonda's charater accidentally and turns into a nervous babbling school boy trying to explain his presence. The two of them have this uncomfortable history that is never entirely explained, which is cool. The scene cracked me up, because throughout the rest of the film, Widmark was in control. But one look at Henry Fonda sapped all that confidence right out of him.

I loved the scene where Richard Widmark told his singer friend that he was in love with his wife. Just kind of refreshing in a movie with a couple affairs going on.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie, but it wasn't entirely satisfying either.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds very interesting. I always enjoy cop/crime movies, and I like Richard Widmark alot. I think he was a terrific actor. Oh, and here's a Western of his that I like..."Broken Lance."

    I am really enjoying our "grizzled men" conversation. If you would ever like to continue it through email, feel free to email me.

    You wonder why you like the dirty, sweaty man. I wonder why I like the angry, cynical characters Ryan and Holden portrayed. I am drawn to those kinds of characters quite often...I would hate to have a therapist tell me what underlying thing in my subconscious is causing that!

    Also, about parents made a cross-country move when I was 15....from a major metropolitan Eastern city to a tiny, rural Western town. It was a culture-shock move for me...very difficult, and I never really fit in. So anything that smacks of the West, I generally run from, though I AM making a bit of progress in not being so narrow-minded.

    Have a great day,