Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom, Jack Thibeau, Fred Ward
Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood’s final collaboration, Escape From Alcatraz (1979), is tight, tough, cool and exciting — just what you’d expect from the guy who directed Riot In Cell Block 11 (1954), Baby Face Nelson (1957), Dirty Harry (1971), Charley Varrick (1973) and so many others.
Well researched and actually shot at Alcatraz (which had to be partially restored prior to filming), it’s coming to 4K from Kino Lorber later this year. I love seeing Siegel’s work get this kind of treatment. Highly, highly recommended.
Category Archives: 1979
Directed by Don Siegel
Don Siegel’s films are scattered throughout my list of all-time favorites — if I was to ever sit down and make such a list. Here are some photos I’ve come across while researching him for various things (some of these images have appeared on this blog before, but are worth repeating).
Up top, there’s Siegel directing Clint Eastwood in Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970). The original screenplay was by Budd Boetticher, who was supposed to direct (he ended up with only a story credit). Budd not happy with the finished film, which co-starred Shirley MacLaine. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner called the picture “a solidly entertaining film that provides Clint Eastwood with his best, most substantial role to date; in it he is far better than he has ever been. In director Don Siegel, Eastwood has found what John Wayne found in John Ford and what Gary Cooper found in Frank Capra.” They’d make five movies together.
Here he is with Ronald Reagan and Vinveca Lindfors (Mrs. Siegel at the time) shooting Night Unto Night (1949).
Neville Brand and Dabbs Greer (?) get direction from Siegel on Riot In Cell Block 11 (1954).
Nick Adams and Siegel go over the script for Hell Is For Heroes (1962).
Siegel, Angie Dickinson, Claude Akins and John Cassavettes (back of his head) on the set of The Killers (1964).
With Eastwood on the set of Coogan’s Bluff (1968), their first picture together.
Andy Robinson goes over the script with Siegel on Dirty Harry (1971).
Siegel and Walter Matthau having a laugh on Charley Varrick (1973). I think Don’s wearing the same hat he has on in the photo from The Killers.
Eastwood and Siegel on location for Escape From Alcatraz (1979).
I was trying to find a picture of Siegel working on Baby Face Nelson (1957), one of his best, but had no luck. It’s highly underrated, probably because it’s almost impossible to see.
Directed by Bob Clark
Starring Christopher Plummer, James Mason, Donald Sutherland, Geneviève Bujold, John Gielgud
Pitting the brilliant Sherlock Holmes against the insidious Jack The Ripper is an inspired idea, and it’s been the basis of some good books and movies. Bob Clark’s Murder By Decree (1979) is a really good one. (Saw it in the theater back in ’79, and it boosted a fascination with the Ripper that I still can’t crawl out from under.)
Christopher Plummer plays the great detective and James Mason is wonderful as his trusted friend Watson. Peter Cushing will always be my favorite Holmes, but Plummer is very, very good. Frank Finlay, who played Inspector Lestrade in a previous Holmes/Ripper picture, A Study In Terror (1966), does the same thing here, too.
Murder By Decree walks the line between mystery and horror perfectly.
Kino Lorber has announced a Blu-Ray for Murder By Decree, with a hint at some really cool extras. The mileage I put on my old laserdisc of this one confirms that I recommend it very highly.
Universal has always been big on “franchises,” from the Universal Monsters and Ma And Pa Kettle to Back To The Future and Tremors.
Certainly one of their biggest would have to be the Airport pictures. And while they’re a cases study in the Law Of Diminishing Returns, there’s still something about them, something we can all own on Blu-ray in June.
Directed by George Seaton
Starring Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Barry Nelson
Van Heflin (in his last movie) blows a hole in Dean Martin’s plane. Shot in 70mm Todd-AO by Ernest Laszlo, it was a massive success — and kick-started the disaster movie craze of the 70s. Note the Easter ad for Radio City Music Hall.
Airport ’75 (1974)
Directed by Jack Smight
Starring Charlton Heston, Karen Black, George Kennedy, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Helen Reddy, Gloria Swanson, Linda Blair
A small plane runs into the cockpit of a 747, leaving no one to fly the plane. It seems to be the movie most parodied in Airplane! (1980).
Airport ’77 (1977)
Directed by Jarry Jameson
Starring Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, James Stewart, George Kennedy, Brenda Vaccaro, Christopher Lee, Joseph Cotton
A hijacked 747 crashes and sinks in the Bermuda Triangle.
The Concorde: Airport ’79 (1979)
Directed by David Lowell Rich
Starring Alain Delon, Susan Blakely, Robert Wagner, Sylvia Kristal, George Kennedy, Eddie Albert, Charo, John Davidson
Where the previous pictures had the likes of Helen Hayes, James Stewart, Gloria Swanson and Joseph Cotton in supporting roles, here we have Charo and Sybil Danning. It plays like a TV movie, and a bad one at that.
Directed by Francis Coppola
Written by John Milius and Francis Coppola
Starring Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frederick Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Larry Fishburne, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford
I saw Apocalypse Now (1979) somewhere outside Philadelphia. (It was one of the prints with the credits appearing over the footage of Kurtz’s base being blown up.) It was a powerful experience, and I left the theater wrung-out and numb.
What really drove it all home was after the lights came up and we headed up the aisle, there were two men — obviously Viet Nam veterans, and looking a bit like Dennis Hopper did in the movie — in a tight hug, sobbing. That said a lot more about this film than any review anyone could ever write. Wish I’d had the guts to thank those men for their service, but I was 15 and stupid.
Apocalypse Now is being shown at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on August 1 as part of Cinespia’s outdoor film series. They say it’ll be the theatrical release version, and this is certainly a picture that needs to be seen on a large screen.
And to those two vets from that night in ’79, and to everyone else who served over there, thank you for your service.
Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom, Fred Ward
Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood’s final collaboration, Escape From Alcatraz (1979), is tight, tough, cool and exciting — just what you’d expect from the guy who directed Riot In Cell Block 11 (1954), Dirty Harry (1971), Charley Varrick (1973) and so many others.
Well researched and actually shot at Alcatraz (which had to be partially restored prior to filming), it’s coming to Blu-ray from Paramount in October. (I’ve been wanting to watch this one again, but I’ll wait for the Blu-ray.) Highly, highly recommended.
Speaking of Siegel, Criterion has brought their 1946/1964 The Killers double feature to Blu-ray. Siegel made the 1964 version — starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Ronald Reagan, John Cassavettes and Clu Galager — as a TV movie, but Universal sent it to theaters instead. (Robert Siodmak directed the 1946 one, starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner.) Very good stuff.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring (in more or less the order I could remember them) Warren Oates, Slim Pickens, Elisha Cook, Jr., Dub Taylor, Dan Aykroyd, Robert Stack, Ned Beatty, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eddie Deezen, Nancy Allen, John Belushi, Lorraine Gary, Dick Miller, Murray Hamilton, Christopher Lee, Tim Matheson, Toshiro Mifune, Susan Backlinie, Lionel Stander, Sam Fuller, Bobby Di Cicco, Perry Lang, John Landis, Penny Marshall, Treat Williams, Wendie Jo Sperber, Lucille Bensen, James Caan
Is there a movie you like more because everyone else seems to hate it? For me, that’s Steven Spielberg’s 1941 (1979), a movie I dearly love and will lift up till the day I die. But saying that, I also understand, and even agree with, many of the complaints about it. Sure it’s big, it’s loud, it’s stupid, it’s disrespectful — and those are all completely positive things in my book.
It’s also coming to Blu-ray in May as a stand-alone disc (it was already part of a snazzy Spielberg set) — with both the two-hour theatrical cut and the longer, expanded thing. I’ve always preferred the theatrical version — I feel it has a better rhythm to it, even though it offers less Slim Pickens, Dick Miller, etc. Speaking of those guys, how could a movie that boasts Warren Oates, Slim Pickens, Elisha Cook, Jr., Dub Taylor, Dick Miller, Murray Hamilton, Christopher Lee and Toshiro Mifune not be a treasure?
1941 is also the movie that made me really realize there was some guy named John Milius that I needed to learn more about.
The Last Embrace (1979) is one of those movies you mention to people — “a Hitchcock kinda thing directed by Jonathan Demme where Roy Scheider’s a government agent who’s really paranoid about someone being after him and it ends at Niagara Falls” — and they look at you like you’re nuts. Nobody’s ever heard of this thing.
Hopefully, now that Kino Lorber has announced its October Blu-ray and DVD release, that’ll change. It’s another obscure Roy Scheider film that really deserves to be seen.