Apr 20, 2008

The Third Floor Drive-In: Season Four, Episode One

Yes ladies and gentlemen, now that the nice weather has finally reared its head, and that we're no longer surrounded by snowdrifts (with apologies to Saskatchewan), the G-Man wasted no time in opening up The Third Floor Drive-In (founded 2005) for its fourth season, and perhaps the best yet.

The inaugural 2008 screening on April 19 was... the 1968 western Blue, with Terence Stamp and Karl Malden. Preceded by... trailer for The Stranger and The Gunfighter.

Blue baffled most upon its initial release, and perhaps understandably, but 40 years has been rather kind to this bizarre opus. Terence Stamp is the titular character, a gringo also referred to as "Azul" (the Mexican translation) by his surrogate father Ortega (Ricardo Montalban) who is a revolutionary leader. During another of his customary raids on the "Yanquis", Blue shoots one of the bandidos who tries to have his way with the fetching Joanna Pettet. Her father (Karl Malden) is the doctor who nurses him back to health, and much to his chagrin, Blue has rather adopted them as the next surrogate family. And despite the scorn Blue receives from the Yanqui settlers, they realize he is their greatest hope against Ortega's impending revenge.

Casting a British actor as a cowboy is a bizarre choice, but this actually compliments the material. Stamp doesn't completely hide his English accent, but however intentionally or not, this, plus his fair skin and bleached hair, adds to his character's displacement from his surroundings. He is a man without a country-- owing much to his American and Mexican heritage, yet similarly being ostracized from both. Stanley Cortez's magnificent cinematography, often filming the characters as specs on landscape, with its saturated colours and wide vistas, further accentuates the otherworldly aspect of the scenario. The music by Manos Hatzidakis, with its thick Greek chords sounding unlike a traditional frontier score, are also evocative of a man from a different world.

This oddball film was a critic's joke in 1968 (even more that its director, Silvio Narizzano, had just completed Georgy Girl!), and while it doesn't always work (for instance, Blue doesn't speak for the first half of the film- a gimmick more contrived than symbolic), it is certainly interesting. There were many "existential cowboys" in the 1960's, perhaps none more than Blue.


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Actually, the "nice weather" first reared its head over a month ago... but I get your drift ;)

Good to see you back in action! I saw "Skyjacked" (1972) on the big screen in my youth; another movie of the kind you write about.


I meant to post my above comment on your "This is a Hijack" entry.

Sorry, I'm a little flighty sometimes.