Friday, August 05, 2005

Movie: Across 110th Street (1972)

Some movies are made to be watched on hot summer nights. Take this brutal pulp melodrama. A trio of gunmen disguised as cops take the Mafia’s Harlem operation for 300K. They’re hunted by an uneasy alliance of black and Italian gangsters, as well as a similar pair of detectives (Yaphet Kotto and Anthony Quinn). It’s a nasty, fast-paced time capsule of New York’s Fun City days. You can practically smell the trash in the streets. And for the sartorially-inclined, there are some fine blaxploitation threads on display, particularly by Antonio Fargas in proto-Huggy Bear mode.

I felt a thrill when I saw the name Fouad Said in the credits. Said developed the legendary “whammy chart” popularized by screenwriting guru Syd Field. It showed that action movies need an explosion every ten minutes to hold the audience’s interest. In his book A POUND OF FLESH, Art Linson credits “some Egyptian who worked at American International Pictures” for passing the theory along to a pair of then up-and-coming producers. “(Joel) Silver and (Lawrence) Gordon live very well,” Linson wrote. “No one seems to know what happened to the Egyptian.” There’s one mystery solved. As for Syd Field, he’s now helping the Pentagon teach scientists to write for the movies.

Quentin Tarantino used the Bobby Womack title song over the opening credits of JACKIE BROWN. In a quirk of timing, that movie came on soon after I finished watching this one. Stranger still, the music plays as we watch Pam Grier pass the LAX tile mosaic that features memorably in POINT BLANK, which I also watched this week. Increasing the sense that all the movies I’ve seen are in fact one endless loop.

Miscellaneous: Link

Forget Syd Field. Write for Hollywood the Joe Eszterhas way!