Category Archives: Peter Falk

RIP, Paul Sorvino.

Paul Anthony Sorvino
(April 13, 1939 – July 25, 2022)

Paul Sorvino has passed away 83. He was a terrific actor, widely known for Goodfellas (1990) and Law And Order.

He was wonderful in William Friedkin’s The Brink’s Job (1978, that’s him with Peter Falk), one of the most criminally-overlooked films of the 70s, as I see it. He shined in an ensemble cast that included Peter Falk, Warren Oates, Gena Rowlands, Peter Boyle and Allen Garfield.

But he was always good. Take a look at The Gambler (1974) with James Caan, Warren Beatty’s Reds (1981) and The Rocketeer (1991). And he was a hoot as Lips in Beatty’s Dick Tracy (1990).

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Filed under 1978, James Caan, Peter Falk, Warren Oates, William Friedkin

Blu-Ray News #230: The Brink’s Job (1978).

Directed by William Friedkin
Starring Peter Falk, Peter Boyle, Allen Garfield, Warren Oates, Gena Rowlands, Paul Sorvino

After the box-office failure of his masterpiece Sorcerer (1977), William Friedkin turned out a gem of a heist picture, The Brink’s Job (1978).

It’s a shamefully overlooked movie — from a script by Walon Green who wrote Sorcerer and The Wild Bunch (1969), and I’m so happy to hear it’s getting a Blu-Ray release from Kino Lorber. Can’t wait.

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Filed under 1978, DVD/Blu-ray News, Kino Lorber, Peter Falk, Warren Oates, William Friedkin

Blu-Ray news #130: Castle Keep (1969).

Directed by Sidney Pollack
Starring Burt Lancaster, Peter Falk, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Patrick O’Neal, Scott Wilson, Tony Bill, Al Freeman, Jr., Bruce Dern, Michael Conrad

This is a weird movie, but I always liked it — thanks largely to Burt Lancaster and the terrific supporting cast (Peter Falk, Scott Wilson, Bruce Dern). Lancaster’s a one-eyed major whose company takes over a French castle toward the end of World War II.

The production had its woes, from unusually warm Yugoslavian temperatures that melted the snow and prompted the trees to sprout buds to trouble with pyrotechnics that meant sets had to be rebuilt. Hopefully some of that will be covered in the interviews and others supplements that are part of the upcoming Blu-Ray from Indicator/Powerhouse Films in the UK.

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Filed under 1969, Burt Lancaster, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Peter Falk

DVD News # 129: Decoy (1957-1958).

Film Chest Media Group has announced an upcoming set of all 39 episodes of Decoy (1957-1958). This cop show, starring Beverly Garland as policewoman Casey Jones, was shot on location in New York.

Like a lot of 50s TV, some outstanding character actors turn up each week. Decoy boasts Simon Oakland, Martin Balsam, Peter Falk, John Cassavetes, Suzanne Pleshette, Vincent Gardenia, Clifton James, Colleen Dewhurst, Ed Asner, Miriam Colon, Al Lewis, Diane Ladd, Larry Hagman and Albert Dekker, along with many others.

I’ve seen a few episodes of Decoy over the years, and they’re really cool — with a bit of a Dragnet vibe. Of course, the 50s New York locations are terrific. Beverly Garland is one of my favorite actresses, so I’m really excited to see how this set looks. The release date is listed as May 30.

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Filed under 1957, 1958, Beverly Garland, Film Chest Media Group, Peter Falk, Television

Blu-ray Review: The Great Race (1965).

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Directed by Blake Edwards
Produced by Martin Jurow
Screenplay by Arthur A. Ross
Original Story by Blake Edwards, Arthur Ross
Production Design: Fernando Carrere
Director Of Photography: Russell Harlan. ASC
Costumes Designed by Don Feld
Miss Wood’s Clothes by Edith Head
Film Editor: Ralph E. Winters
Music by Henry Mancini

Cast: Jack Lemmon (Prof. Fate), Tony Curtis (The Great Leslie), Natalie Wood (Maggie DuBois), Peter Falk (Max), Keenan Wynn (Hezekiah Sturdy), Arthur O’Connell (Henry Goodbody), Dorothy Provine (Lily Olay), Larry Storch (Texas Jack), Ross Martin (Baron Rolfe von Stuppe), George Macready (General Kuhster), Denver Pyle (Sheriff).


Blake Edwards’ The Great Race is the kind of movie Blu-ray seems made for: a great big Panavision roadshow piece of Technicolor eye candy. And from its overture to the final fade, the new disc from Warner Archive is a thing of real beauty.

Part homage to silent films (dedicated to “Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy”), part live-action cartoon, with The Great Race, Blake Edwards tried to pull off the near-impossible task of making an epic comedy. It’s up to the viewer to decide if he succeeded or not.

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The Great Leslie (Tony Curtis) and Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon)—inspired casting of the male leads of Some Like It Hot (1959)—are daredevils in the early 1900s. Leslie is the dressed-in-white hero who always comes through unscathed; Fate’s a combination of your typical black-clad silent movie villain and Wile E. Coyote, whose plans always blow up in his face, sometimes literally, with a “Ta-Da!” from Henry Mancini. Fate is accompanied by his ever-loyal and equally-inept assistant Max Meen (Peter Falk), while Leslie has Keenan Wynn in his corner. Establishing these characters and their rivalry makes for a hilarious first reel (which the rest of the movie has to work hard to live up to).

An around-the-world automobile race is announced (Leslie’s brainchild), setting the “course” for the rest of the film—with Natalie Wood on hand as Maggie DuBois, a reporter covering the race. After a number of setpieces involving everything from a saloon brawl to a stowaway polar bear, it settles down to a retread of The Prisoner Of Zenda that treats us to two Jack Lemmons and keeps Miss Wood in her underwear for the last 45 minutes or so. And just for good measure, it all climaxes with a truly epic pie fight.

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Making The Great Race turned out to be a bumpy road. Edwards clashed with Jack Warner, and he was actually removed from the picture. The cast united to have him brought back. Costs piled up. And the pies went rancid from one day’s shooting to the next—the set would have to be hosed down and redressed with fresh pies. The whole thing ended up 24 days over schedule.

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What’s more, Natalie Wood wasn’t too thrilled about the whole thing. She owed Warner Bros. another film, and she went into The Great Race grudgingly to take care of that obligation. The part had already been offered to Jane Fonda, who decided to do Cat Ballou instead, and Lee Remick, who’d done Days Of Wine And Roses (1962) with Edwards and Jack Lemmon.

Great race NW pie

Wood and Edwards didn’t get along. She demanded that Edith Head do her costumes. And while shooting the pie fight, Edwards himself threw the pies meant for Natalie. Turns out comedy is no laughing matter.

Critics didn’t find a whole lot of greatness in The Great Race. When you advertise a movie with the tagline “The greatest comedy of all time,” you’re probably asking for it. And in the end, it wasn’t the runaway hit everyone was hoping for—especially since it cost a then-mammoth $12 million. But time has been kind to Edwards’ salute to slapstick, and it has a healthy following. This was certainly aided by the fact that an episodic film like this plays pretty well on television—strategically-placed commercial breaks can’t completely destroy its rhythm. That’s where kids like me found it in the 70s and fell in love with it.

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The Great Race presents its great cast and crew at the absolute peak of their powers. Lemmon’s a riot in his dual role (I’d be happy with another two hours of Fate’s disastrous stunts). Curtis is perfect as the perfect hero, bringing just the right amount of life to a character that’s required to be somewhat bland. Natalie Wood’s both funny and beautiful. Peter Falk comes close to stealing the whole thing. Blake Edwards brings all this chaos together and makes it work—though some find it an exhausting experience. And, of course, Henry Mancini knocks off another brilliant score.

Great Race Boys LifeTake a quick look at that list and realize that everyone associated with The Great Race has passed on: Lemmon, Curtis, Wood, Falk, Edwards and on down the line. But almost 50 years after its release, in The Great Race, they seem vibrantly alive on the new Blu-ray from Warner Archive.

Russell Harlan’s Oscar-nominated camerawork is really shown off here. Colors pop and the image is amazingly sharp and detailed. (Wish the same could be said for the Blu-ray of his work on Rio Bravo.) The stereo is clean, giving plenty of punch to Mancini’s music and the cartoonish sound effects (many of which you’ll recognize from your favorite WB cartoons). We’re treated to the roadshow presentation, complete with overture, intermission and exit music.

If I didn’t already have a Blu-ray setup, this one would’ve pulled the trigger—it’s an all-time favorite, and a real demonstration of everything the format can do, from astounding clarity to film-like texture to warehousing a sizable stash of extras. Highly, highly recommended.

Push the button, Max!

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Filed under 1965, Blake Edwards, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Jack Lemmon, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, Tony Curtis, Warner Archive