“Prime Cut” starring Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman. Colour and Panavision. Directed by Michael Ritchie. A Cinema Center Presentation released by 20th Century Fox.
“Fast Kill” starring Tom Adams. Technicolour and Techniscope. Produced and directed by Lindsay Schonteff. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.
These two fine thrillers showing in a double bill couldn’t be more contrasting. Fast Kill starts off in a very old fashioned vein – it could almost have been made in the fifties. Big time wealthy gangster with mid-atlantic accent and a flat in Belgravia, rides around the East End in a Rolls, plans the biggest diamond robbery ever staged. This makes it necessary for him to fly around various European capitals to gather the best available talent – pictures of planes taking off and landing and interiors of bars, plus of course, an assignation beneath the Arc de Triomphe. Just like one of those Edgar Wallace shorts – remember them?
But suddenly it all changes – one of the woman members of the gang turns out to be one of your actual lesbians. Now that’s decidedly modern isn’t it. We all know there weren’t any lesbians in the fifties. But the film does really get better as well; more ruthless, full of suspense and generally exciting.
The robbery and later on the way in which the gang leader disposes of most of the rest of the gang, in order to secure a larger share of the loot, introduces an exceedingly well presented brand of extreme 1972 bloody violence. Taken as a whole the film is an extremely watchable, entertaining piece of trivia.
By complete contrast, Prime Cut follows the current American cinematic trend of developing the basic theme of the film, by making it into a semi-documentary on aspects of American life, through filming almost entirely on location. One of the big Kansas landowners has got slightly behind (to the tune of $500,000) with his protection payments to a Chicago gang, who are despatched to Kansas to collect. Thus we have the usual procedure of fights, threats and shootings, and even a combine harvester rather than car chase – all of which are skillfully and suspensefully directed. What considerably enlarges the film is the fascinating wide screen picture of modern rural factory large scale farming, as practised in Kansas and how the people who run it are just like large urban factory owners. It must be sounding a bit repetitive to those of you who read my reviews regularly, but really this is basically a film about atmosphere, the atmosphere of a certain part of rural America today. The fact that it is a thriller makes it exciting in parts, but it is really only incidental. If you’re fascinated by the great American sickness it is a film from which you will get a great stimulus, but if you follow the publicity and go because you’re expecting an exciting thriller and nothing else, you might be disappointed.