Tag Archives: Crossfire

T.G.I.F. – Happy Birthday, Robert Mitchum

Boy, talk about a rebel.

Robert Mitchum just didn’t give a shit about authority or rules. Didn’t care that in Hollywood, people were supposed to act a certain way. Didn’t care that he might rub directors or producers the wrong way and it might impact his career. I doubt he even let the word career linger in his head. Basically, you go around once,  and baby, if you want to climb aboard the Good Ship Mitchum, things are gonna work out just fine.

Of course, by the time this reputation was clearly established, I was but a young film buff learning to appreciate the wonders of The Sundowners, Cape Fear, El Dorado and Story of G.I. Joe (amazingly, his only Academy Award nomination). It wasn’t until years later that I finally saw Out Of The Past, which is easily in the top five list of the greatest film noir ever made.

I was not a big Winds of War or War And Remembrance fan despite the accolades; I prefer Mitchum young and rebellious and demonic. But even in his seventies, his narration in Tombstone was outstanding (the last line is an absolute classic) and his small role in Robert DeNiro’s remake of Cape Fear put a big smile on my face. Pretty amazing that he lasted within a month of his 80th birthday after the life he had, but his majestic film performances are preserved forever in all their glory. As are those record albums and mug shots.

So as I celebrate Robert Mitchum’s birthday by having a cocktail, listening to a calypso song and just not giving a shit for a little while; here are Ten Memorable Mitchums for you to recall and/or discover…

(No slight to fellow birthday buddy Lucille Ball, a comedic legend and genius, but it’s all about Bob today. Maybe next year?)

01)  The Night of The Hunter. Oh. My. God. As (cough) preacher Harry Powell, with fingers tattooed L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E, Mitchum created one of the most frighteningly sinister characters in film history.

02)  River Of No Return. Mitchum in a western with Marilyn Monroe, a raging river and a real-life pot bust during filming. Not a classic, but a side of Mitchum not often seen.

03)  The List of Adrian Messenger. Okay, Mitchum only plays a small part in this movie, much like Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis . The stars are really George C. Scott and Kirk Douglas, but this who-done-it is really more of a who-is-it. Trust me – watch this film.

04)  Crossfire. Three Roberts – Mitchum, Robert Ryan and Robert Young – in a wartime thriller directed by Edward Dmytryk. Available in a film noir collection although technically not really in the genre.

05)  The Longest Day. Still one of the best WWII movies ever made, this film told the story of D-Day from the perspective of four different countries and featured forty-two Hollywood stars in the cast.

06)  The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Mitchum as a Boston small-timer with his back against the wall trying to survive between the Feds and the mob. Incredible cast (Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Alex Rocco) and finally out on DVD. A must-see movie.

07)  Thunder Road. Moonshine, hot rods and rum-running as Lucas Doolin. Mitchum wrote the script and even had a hit song with the title theme (take that, Bruce Springsteen!) as he played an Appalachian James Dean

08)  The Racket. Another film with Robert  Ryan (perhaps even more underrated than Mitchum these days) where Mitchum plays the righteous guy trying to stem the corruption of the mob.

09)  The Enemy Below. A taut duel between submarine commander Curd Jurgens and Mitchum’s destroyer. To say this is claustrophobic is an understatement, but the game of cat-and-mouse is spellbinding and tense, and the display of respect for one’s enemy was an unusual tone for a war film.

10)  Out Of The Past. An absolute stone-cold classic loaded with killer quotes. “Build my gallows high, baby”…”Baby, I don’t care”…”It was the bottom of the barrel, and I was scraping it“. And when the femme fatale says she doesn’t want to die, he replies “Neither do I, baby, but if I do I want to die last“.  Also featuring one of Kirk Douglas‘ best roles; loosely remade as Against All Odds in the 80s (a decent film,  but it pales in comparison to the original).

Robert Mitchum’s filmography at IMDB.

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Blast From The Past: Frank Zappa

I’m an unabashed Frank Zappa fan; I probably own more albums of his than of any other artist, a fact that owes as much to his prolific artistry as it does to my love of his music. And I certainly don’t suggest that anyone should skip over the majesty of his catalogue to settle for a greatest hits collection.

But I have to remind myself that it’s been over fifteen years since his passing and there’s a generation of listeners who probably have no first-hand observation of the man’s genius. Where does one start? Of course, I always will recommend that one start at the beginning and work forward to be richly rewarded by one great album after another.

But times are tough and money is tight. So if you’re looking to get a mere snapshot, one suggestion is a collection of songs that finds Frank flipping the audio bird at some not-so-sacred cows, entitled Have I Offended Someone. Rykodisc’s fifteen track CD was released posthumously in 1997. Here’s my review, originally published in May of that year…

Thankfully...yes, you have!

Thankfully...yes, you have!

To say that Zappa pushed the envelope would be an understatement. Before it was in vogue to do so, Frank thrilled audiences with theatrical rock shows in residence and issued concept albums. His perfectionist nature led him to discover, nurture, and support talented musicians like Lowell George, Steve Vai and Terry Bozzio. His music encompassed orchestral movements, rock, jazz, and featured everything from classical strings to funky horn sections. When label support would be unavailable (as it usually was from Warner Brothers) Zappa would finance his own tours, usually at a loss, to present his music in a form he felt it deserved. And politically he suffered no fools, as evidenced by his long time campaign against the PMRC and their proposed rating system – again, at his own expense and for the issue, not the glory.

During his 1988 tour – a phenomenal series of performances that has still not been fully documented – he made arrangements with the League Of Women Voters in each city to set up a booth to register voters. For all his idiosyncrasies (and truth be known, they were mostly perceived), Zappa was a brilliant and prolific musician and orator with a biting wit and a generous heart. He never told people what to think – he merely asked them to think for themselves.

Yet to many, Zappa was a man feeding toilet humor to the masses in place of music, a crass and disgusting artist who made fun of gays, blacks, Jews, Catholics…oh hell, everybody. Crass? Well…maybe. Zappa used his satire to pop the balloons of many targets, but never with hatred. What Frank did so well was to take matters like homophobia, racism, sexual prohibition and especially intellectual repression, and let them bask in their own hypocritical bright light.

Have I Offended Someone brings together most of the songs that got under the skin of the politically correct set, those who unfortunately missed the humor and sarcasm. Of course, you also have the closet hypocrites, too. (You can spot them in a second – they’re the ones who laughed at “Jewish Princess” but got pissed when “Catholic Girls” came out a couple of years later.) Zappa was offended too, but by phony televangelists, slimy record executives, two-faced politicians, drug-addled air heads, and especially apathetic whiners. But rather than sit back and complain – or worse, do nothing – Zappa stood up for what he believed in, in song, and in deed.

These witticisms were only a small fragment of a recording career which comprises hundreds of hours of music that spanned the full spectrum of music. But for those new to the Zappa world looking to get a clue to his satirical side, this is as good a place to start as any. Although each of the fifteen pieces on Offended is available in some form on previous releases, eight are remixed or reconstructed and two are previously unavailable live versions – “Tinsel Town Rebellion” and “Dumb All Over”, the latter featuring some stunning guitar work. Other highlights include the driving “Disco Boy” and the hilarious “We’re Turning Again”, Frank’s dead on shot at aging hippies: ‘Now I see ’em tightnin’ up their headbands / On the weekend and they get loaded when they came to town / They walk around in Greenwich Village buying posters they can hang up / In those smelly little secret black light bedrooms on Long Island / Singing JIMI COME BACK!…’

There are enough extras here to please even the Zappa completists, and Rykodisc has done their usual stellar job with sound quality and packaging. Fittingly, the cover art is from outlaw artist Ralph Steadman and the liner notes from ex-Fug honcho Ed Sanders, both of whom know something about artistic repression. Frank Zappa was the Curt Flood of rock and roll, the man who took one for the team and said out loud what many others did not have the courage to voice. When he took on the Senate Committee and the PMRC equipped with only wit, intellect and the Bill Of Rights, it was a slaughter. The suits never stood a chance.

Have I Offended Someone? God, I hope so.

And since Robert Novak has left this mortal coil…here’s Frank on Crossfire.

zappa moustache

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