Judge Ryan Keefer thinks that an American car with a big engine probably makes for a decent getaway.
Our review of The Getaway (1972) (HD DVD), published April 2nd, 2007, is also available.
"My old lady must've made you a lot of promises."
The Getaway featured a lot of things going on kinetically outside of its production. Director Sam Peckinpah and star Steve McQueen reunited after working on the western Junior Bonner, where the two alpha male personalities were finding love off screen. McQueen found love in co-star Ali MacGraw (Love Story), while Peckinpah was cavorting with his assistant Joie Gould. In the midst of all this love and affection, is there a decent movie?
Facts of the Case
Adapted from Jim Thompson's novel by Walter Hill (The Warriors), The Getaway begins when convicted bank robber Doc McCoy (McQueen) has just been released from prison and into the waiting arms of his wife Carol (MacGraw). However, the release isn't without a couple of catches. Not only does Doc have to immediately pull another bank job at the order of the crooked Jack Benyon (Ben Johnson, The Wild Bunch), but he has to do it with Benyon's crew, which includes a hotshot named Frank (Bo Hopkins, Midnight Express) and the crazed Rudy (Al Lettieri, The Godfather). They all manage to pull the job off, but not without the cost of a couple of lives. Doc and Carol try to do what they can to get to the border before they're caught, either by the cops or by Benyon's crew.
Well, on all things Peckinpah, I consult David Weddle's Peckinpah biography, "If They Move…Kill 'Em!" The attraction of having McQueen attached to a film that Peckinpah would direct, not to mention Peckinpah's percentage of the profits deal, made it an easy decision to make. Then of course, MacGraw running into McQueen's arms during the production made it another lightning rod of discussion. Overall Peckinpah's behavior didn't appear to show a lot of eccentricity, and thus made for a commercial success capitalizing on the real-life romance between two marquee stars. An anti-Gigli, if you will.
Whether you read it in a biography or listen to interviews from the cast, the one thing that you can gleam from any account by anyone on that set was that it seemed like everyone involved wanted to make the film as fun as possible. McQueen's performance is decent enough, and MacGraw doesn't say a lot but her silence is really profound at parts. She's got a big burden that she's still carrying because of a compromise she decided to make. And while many remember Lettieri as the vicious Turk in Francis Ford Coppola's film, as Rudy he plays a guy who exhibits a lot of power with a gun, but when the tables are turned on him psychologically, he almost reverts to childlike behavior when he's bossing around Harold (Jack Dodson, Something Wicked This Way Comes) and a pre-All in the Family Sally Struthers.
The video transfer is a carbon copy 1080p VC-1 encoded job from its redder HD DVD brother. Aside from the semantics of listing the presentation as 1.85:1 anamorphic and actually being 2.35:1, the picture is pretty clear and a bit sharper than another McQueen film I've seen on HD DVD, that being Bullitt. However, on the audio version, you're stuck with the mono version, and everything that comes out of the center channel is pretty hollow, even on the action scenes, of which there are plenty.
The extras are retreads from the SD version, beginning with a commentary from Peckinpah experts Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and Weddle. These four provide a good deal of historical information about the film and its stars, and examine a lot of the shots in detail. They also elaborate a little on the working relationship between McQueen and his director, and they recall some trivia about the production itself. Everyone has a lot of fun on this track; it seems less an examination and more of an appreciation. A "virtual commentary" features old interview footage with Peckinpah, McQueen and MacGraw, set to stills over the first 10 minutes of the film. They share their thoughts on each other and the story, and it's a quick look at a well-intending feature. Next is a featurette titled "Main Title 1M1 Jerry Fielding, Sam Peckinpah and The Getaway." In it, Fielding's widow and Peckinpah's assistant sit down together to recall Fielding's life and his working relationship with the director. It's about a half hour long and a nice intimate look. Fielding's score is also provided as an alternate track. There are also trailers to some Peckinpah Warner Brothers releases to complete things.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are points in the film where the slow-motion arterial spraying that Peckinpah employs in the film grow a bit tiring, even predictable. But for every "ballet of blood," he at the very least was given the room to bring in the actors from his stock company. Johnson is a good villain, Dub Taylor (who played Laughlin) had worked with Peckinpah from Major Dundee, and in the film's ending, Slim Pickens (The Ballad of Cable Hogue) is a warm, pleasant figure that gives you comfort about the future.
The Getaway is simply good fun, featuring a moment in the lives of several memorable Hollywood figures. The technical merits make it worth upgrading if you have either format, and I think that this is probably as good as you're going to get when it comes to a definitive edition of this film. So go get it.
Not guilty all the way around, now hopefully Doc and Carol will pay me off to keep my mouth shut.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary by Peckinpah Biographers/Documentarians Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons, and David Weddle
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