Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Movie: Cops and Robbers (1973)

On the plus side, my cable company – I’ll take a page from Ivan at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear and call them Bombast – regularly adds movie channels. You just can’t watch them unless you ask, even if you’re paying for them.

A few months back two new stations appeared at the high end of the dial, taunting me with their listings. If I flipped them on, a message told me to call Bombast to subscribe. Which irked me no end, because I pony up for their “platinum premium” package. As far as I’m concerned, that means I should receive a jewel-encrusted remote every time a new channel is offered. This weekend we finally called, and learned we were supposed to be getting these stations all along. They were activated in the blink of an eye, and we’re now spending less per month on the “emerald elite” plan or whatever the hell it’s called.

I marked the occasion by tuning in one of these stations to watch Cops and Robbers, not only based on a Donald E. Westlake novel but scripted by him as well. Two New York cops (Cliff Gorman and Joseph Bologna), fed up with the pressures of the job and the city, decide to exploit their positions and pull a ten-million dollar heist during a ticker-tape parade to honor returning astronauts. Westlake being Westlake, problems ensue.

It’s an odd duck of a film, one of those laugh-to-keep-from-crying comedies thick on the ground in the 1970s. Aram Avakian, who would direct a similarly offbeat caper movie the following year with 11 Harrowhouse, keeps it all on an even keel. Tough guy character actor John P. Ryan is terrific as the Mafia middleman with a bowling alley in his house, complete with pin monkey. The bogus soul title song by Michel Legrand, on the other hand, is unforgivable.

Miscellaneous: Lessons Learned About Myself

Any movie universally hailed as “a humanist masterpiece” will bore me off my ass.

Miscellaneous: Links

A great, epic Washington Post article by Neely Tucker about the ‘70s P.I. show Mannix, its absence on DVD, and the role that it plays in the lives of its fans and cast. I’ve never seen a minute of Mannix myself. But Ed Gorman doesn’t think too highly of it, and his word is enough for me.

Allan Guthrie, a man who knows a thing or twelve about noir, lists 200 essential novels in the genre.