Thursday, September 13, 2007

You Are Looking At An Animal

1972's SITTING TARGET is one seriously badass movie. That it isn't on DVD is ridiculous, as it's a violent and visually exciting crowdpleaser with tough action scenes. Originally released by MGM, it doesn't even show on television anymore (I believe it should be part of Turner Classic Movies' lineup, but the constant buying and selling of studio libraries leaves me confused), and I'm not positive it was ever on home video in the U.S. That means hardly anyone in this country has seen SITTING TARGET, which definitely deserves a wider audience. And considering it co-stars DEADWOOD's Al Swearengen, actor Ian McShane, as a gun-wielding anti-hero, I have few doubts that it could find an audience in today's market.

The late Oliver Reed stars as Harry, a physically imposing hood serving time in prison for a robbery after which he managed to stash away $200,000 in loot before he and his confederates were caught. Five months into his sentence, his wife Pat (Jill St. John, who I believe is dubbed by another actress) visits to tell him that she wants a divorce and is pregnant by her new lover. Enraged, Harry attempts to strangle her, and is tossed into solitary. There, he has plenty of time to grow more jealous and angry, and by the time he returns to his regular cell, he has decided to break out of prison and kill Pat.

Director Douglas Hickox (THEATER OF BLOOD) deftly handles the imaginative breakout scene, and receives plenty of aid from the wonderfully picturesque old prison where the first third of the film was shot, which comes complete with a large clock hanging on the wall, where a massive dangling pendulum reminds the defeated prisoners that they have nothing to look forward to but time itself. Busting out with his friend and robbery partner Birdy (Ian McShane), Harry begins plotting his wife's murder. Actually, there isn't much of a plane. Reed plays Harry like a bull in a china shop, his one-track mind focused on murder without giving much of a damn if he even gets caught or not. He tries to protect Birdy by sending his friend on his way, but the loyal buddy sticks with Harry to the bloody end.

Shot on some wonderfully evocative and stark London locations, SITTING TARGET is a grabber all the way through with taut performing across the board. THE EQUALIZER's Edward Woodward pops up as a cop on Harry and Birdy's trail, Frank Finlay is a pigeon named Marty (giving more credence to my Loser Marty Rule, which states that every character named Marty in a film will turn out to be a pimp, sleazebag, hoodlum, junkie or wimp), and lovely Jill Townsend (CIMARRON STRIP) has a nice part as a young woman who brings out a momentary softness in Harry.

I'll be continuing with my Top 100 TV list in the near future, at least when I can find some time. I bit off a little too much when I began this project, in that my opening post took somewhere in the neighborhood of four hours to create. So if future installments seem a bit truncated, it's not because I don't care. It's because I don't have the time.


Anonymous said...

Good call on Sitting Target. The scene where Reed punches through the prison glass to choke his cheating shrew of a wife is incredible.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is something I've got to see. Thanks for the tip Marty!

- Ted Cogswell, HIGH AND LOW (

Anonymous said...

My father-in-law wrote the book on which the film is based. If anything the book's even better! I love it so much I named my record label after it!

I would love this film to be relesed on DVD. there was, briefly, a VHS release in the UK, and I've got a DVD dub of that...

You can buy the excellent soundtrack on CD and Vinyl(!) from Finder Keepers.