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The Getaway (1972)

May 27th, 2007 · 1 Comment

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“Doc” McCoy (Steve McQueen) is introduced in Huntsville Penitentiary serving a ten-year sentence for armed robbery. His parole is denied, but McCoy is unable to handle the regimen of prison life anymore. He asks his wife Carol (Ali MacGraw) to notify Jack Benyon that he’s for sale. Benyon (Ben Johnson) is a businessman who has pull with the parole board.

After frolicking with Carol in San Marcos on his first afternoon of freedom, Doc meets with Benyon on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. He’s instructed to set up the robbery of a small bank that handles cash deposits for an oil company. Doc has to work with two men Benyon wants on the job: a mad dog named Rudy (Al Lettieri) and the dim-witted Frank (Bo Hopkins).

In spite of Doc’s planning, the robbery does not go well. Doc arrives at Benyon’s ranch to divide the money, but Carol pulls a pistol and shoots the businessman. Doc learns that she screwed him in order to get him out of prison. They try to put differences aside to make it to El Paso, with the police, Benyon’s men, and Rudy coming after them.

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Jim Thompson was a writer living on the brink of poverty in Hollywood. He had a whiskey-stained manuscript about a murderous ex-con getting out of prison for one last score, and it was promising enough to land him an agent named Mike Medavoy. Medavoy made a deal with producer David Foster to option Thompson’s book, hoping Foster could convince his friend Steve McQueen to play Doc.

Peter Bogdanovich was a hot director, and when he came on board, Paramount took an interest in backing the film. Thompson took a shot at adapting the screenplay, but no one was happy with the result. The director hired Walter Hill to write the script with him, but Bogdanovich quit when Paramount production chief Robert Evans insisted that his wife Ali MacGraw play the lead. Bogdanovich wanted his girlfriend Cybill Shepherd in the part.

McQueen liked the fact that the couple got away in the end – instead of dying for their sins – and called Sam Peckinpah, who had directed his last film, Junior Bonner. Their previous collaboration had been a commercial failure, but when The Getaway was released, it was a huge hit, so huge, it ended up bankrolling the rest of Peckinpah’s career.

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The opening credits sequence of The Getaway ranks as one of the most brilliant ever designed. Editors Robert Wolfe and Roger Spottiswoode did an incredibly sophisticated job using freeze frames, flashcuts, and sound and imagery to put us inside Doc’s emotional state. They vividly express how oppressive prison life is, and intelligently sets the plot in motion.

Peckinpah and his editors have a lot of fun with the San Marcos bit, and the big shootout in El Paso as well, but nothing in between works all that well. McQueen was often criticized for having limited acting range, but while he’s amazing to watch work in this, it’s Ali MacGraw who is really limited. She has no absolutely no chemistry with McQueen at all and brings nothing memorable to her role.

The script is silly, from Rudy abducting a veterinarian and his dumb-bell wife (Sally Struthers), to the way Doc parades around in plain view even though he’s a fugitive. It is head and shoulders above the 1994 remake starring Alec Baldwin & Kim Basinger, which juiced up the sex and violence, but was even less believable. In addition to Huntsville, San Marcos, San Antonio and El Paso, the film was also shot in Fabens, a town 30 miles southeast of El Paso.

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Self-Styled Siren didn’t care much for the “rampaging misogyny” in The Getaway.

Ruthless Reviews loves it for just that reason. “Yeah man. The Getaway is a good fucking movie.”

View the climactic shootout. McQueen. Peckinpah. And Slim Pickens!

Tags: Based on novel · Gangsters and hoodlums · Heist · Hitman · Road trip · Shootout · Shot In Texas · Train

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Pat Evans // May 28, 2007 at 7:52 am

    Whatever its failings it is infinitely better trash and a whole lot better done than the Baldwin/Basinger remake. Why bother?

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