One-Eyed Jacks

With all this rain, I sat down at home and watched the Criterion Collection edition of “One-Eyed Jacks,” starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Ben Johnson, and Slim Pickens.  It was directed by Brando, and released in 1961.  It was originally filmed in VistaVision, and in this Criterion Collection edition, it looked great.  It was Brando’s attempt to do something different with the Western, and he did do that.  Reportedly, he shot six times the normal amount of footage, and he waited for hours for the waves on the beach to look right before shooting.  He gave his character Rio the Brando treatment, and he was interesting with his improvisation.  There was a funny scene in which he took back a ring he gave to a woman.  He and Malden, whose character is named Dad, were former partners in crime, but Dad becomes a lawman, while Rio breaks out of prison seeking revenge.  The movie had interracial marriage as one of its themes, although one thing that was unbelievable was Dad’s stepdaughter Louise immediately falling in love with Rio.  She had to be one of the dumbest young women in the history of the movies.  Brando smelled like a person you would want to avoid.  We’ll probably never know what Brando’s five-hour cut was like, if it ever existed at all in the first place.  It feels like the studio cut was an attempt to get the movie to resemble a conventional Western.  Brando reminded me at times of his character in “On the Waterfront.”  Maybe it was partly the presence of Karl Malden.  I could understand his determination for revenge more than his attraction to Louise, who seemed undistinguished.  I kept thinking that Rio should have learned to draw his gun left-handed the way that basketball players or baseball players do.  For a first and only directorial effort, “One-Eyed Jacks” was a good result.  It was a transition from the old-fashioned John Ford Western to the new-fashioned Sergio Leone Western, and it was one of the better widescreen Westerns I’ve seen.  One of the interesting facts about the film is that Stanley Kubrick was originally set to direct it, but rather unsurprisingly clashed with Brando.  Pina Pellicer, who was Louise, went on to appear in The Fugitive and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.  She committed suicide at age 30.  “One-Eyed Jacks” received only one Oscar nomination, for Charles Lang’s cinematography.  Lang during his career received Oscar nominations for his work in such films as “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” “Sabrina,” “Some Like It Hot,” “How the West Was Won,” and “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.”  Slim Pickens plays a smelly character.  I found it hard to watch him.  It seemed that the relationship between Rio and Louise could never amount to anything, and the ending should have made that clear.  I don’t think that people would have wanted to pay money to see something tragic, however.  It’s not surprising that this movie feels like a precursor to Sam Peckinpah’s films, like “The Wild Bunch,” since Peckinpah was involved in the writing before he left the production.  “One-Eyed Jacks” seems like a movie that could have been one of the all-time greatest, but fell short.  Brando couldn’t see it through because the task was too huge.  Somebody had to finish it.  Brando died in 2004.  The rain finally eased up at around ten o’clock.  Some of the people who died on January 12 include Hermann Minkowski (1909), Nevil Shute (1960), Agatha Christie (1976), Henri-Georges Clouzot (1977), Keye Luke (1991), and Maurice Gibb (2003).  Today is a birthday for Howard Stern (63) and Kirstie Alley (66).

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