BD 157 Hard Times

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RobertAltman
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#1 Post by RobertAltman » Wed Nov 21, 2007 8:16 pm

I´ve introduced a friend to some good old Walter Hill films recently, and I think this one deserves its own thread. A very strong directorial debut with fight scenes as good as anyone I have ever seen. Bronson, as a man of very few words, was never better, and Strother Martin is a pure delight. I love the atmosphere of the film; the 30s were indeed hard times. The DVD is in need of an upgrade though. I know a Criterion edition is probably too much to ask for(If Criterion releases a non-Brewsters Millions Walter Hill film I can die a happy man), but the current transfer is mediocre at best.

This film, as well as several other Walter Hill films, is in serious need of a critical reevaluation. IMO genre films doesn´t get any better than this. Tight direction, delivers what it promises, and wonderful action scenes. Any thoughts on this film, and/or Walter Hills output in general?

akaten

#2 Post by akaten » Thu Nov 22, 2007 3:15 pm

I've been meaning to make a thread about this film, also I emailed Criterion about it some months back, no response (wrong email? I forget) but perhaps with Two Lane Blacktop being released by them, they may be interested in films that are ultra-machismo genre films pared down to the very core to the point of abstraction.

As well as being a very taut, existential film with a cyclical structure, with strong central performances (don't forget James Coburn!) and excellent work by gifted cinematographer Phillip Lathrop did you notice anything else? The undeniable influence of among other things John Huston's Fat City (ideal companion film) but crucially the dual bear baiting allegory, and how it ties into the feeling of Hard Times being almost a quasi-sequel to Once Upon A Time in the West.

I might be reaching on this but there's the setting New Orleans, the amount $5000, the prolonged mirror shot of Jill Ireland (who Hill and Bronson fell out over her performance, shame they never worked together again) and the shots of caged bears, the way the deliberately anti-climatic final fight scene is staged, private bear fighting.

So I wonder if anyone else considered this possibility, that Charles Bronson is once again playing the Harmonica Player? Ancient Race ideas from Once Upon a Time, remember that great scene in said film when two cowboys tower over the tiny frame of a mere mortal as they buy a one way ticket. Only now during the depression (dust bowl) that the bear has been forced to enter the world of normal human beings. I fully acknowledge the time frames don't add up, but if you think about how in OUATITW the cast are heavily made up, yet in Hard Times is it deliberate that the characters are shown raw, as if to exaggerate the passage of time of Bronson's' craggy features.

Sorry if I'm typing nonsense here, but yeah about Walter Hill, I recommend The Driver and Southern Comfort as his other key works, nothing else I've seen thus far has really impressed me (Geronimo in particular was a letdown) but I know some people are keen on The Long Riders. Having said that I've not seen Brewster's Millions and I'm sure someone here will have a soft spot for The Warriors, or praise the influence 48 Hours has had on cop movies, it certainly features a volatile partnership, as opposed to an annoying one (Bad Boys anyone?).

If you want a tidy narrative to his career it has gone the way of the Alien franchise he has produced throughout. Compare his work on Hard Times to Undisputed, with its wobbly sets, excessive cutting and soundtracks, awful film that not even a towering Ving Rhames and a constantly swearing Colombo can save it.

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#3 Post by Polybius » Fri Nov 23, 2007 1:12 am

I'm on board for Hard Times, The Long Riders, The Warriors and Southern Comfort, at the very least.

Geronimo had potential, but the typically wretched performance by Jason Patric really weighed it down. It's still worth a look, as are some of his second tier efforts like Extreme Prejudice, Tresspass and Last Man Standing (I'm a sucker for that story, no matter how many times it's replayed, in however many different milieus.)

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#4 Post by Nothing » Fri Nov 23, 2007 2:04 am

Yeah, Hard Times is the only Hill film I've really been impressed by. The Warriors and 48 Hours are entertaining enough; The Long Riders and Extreme Prejudice strike me as second-rate, muddled Peckinpah clones; I've yet to see The Driver and Southern Comfort.

In Hard Times, the evocation of the period is visceral, detailed and politically astute and Bronson, Coburn and the gay bounty hunter from The Wild Bunch are all excellent.

The widescreen R3 DVD is reasonably good, though I hear the current R1 dvd is full-screen only.

you gotta be kidding me

#5 Post by you gotta be kidding me » Fri Nov 23, 2007 9:00 am

Nothing wrote:I've yet to see The Driver and Southern Comfort.
Those are two of his best. Personally, The Driver is my favorite.

akaten

#6 Post by akaten » Sat Nov 24, 2007 8:52 am

Geronimo had potential, but the typically wretched performance by Jason Patric really weighed it down.
Exactly, all the more so considering as a result Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall are left on the sidelines for much of proceedings. I'm puzzled as why that character even needed in the first place, if Walter Hill were genuinely interested in Geronimo, drawing the focus of the narrative away from him seems peculiar. Then again I had a hard time taking Geronimo seriously considering his portrayal in Apache. Throughout I was half expecting to see Burt Lancaster pop up, try to assassinate him for being a woman, then escape from the train heading eastwards leaves Geronimo looking like a berk, sitting there with a vacant expression on his face.

Burt Lancaster 1
American History 0 :lol:
you gotta be kidding me wrote:
Nothing wrote:I've yet to see The Driver and Southern Comfort.
Those are two of his best. Personally, The Driver is my favorite.
The Driver is arguably the finest homage to Melville by an American director, specifically Le Samourai that I've seen. Its also worth noting that his work on Bullitt certainly came in handy in staging the numerous car chases throughout. I think what sets these three films (Hard Times, The Driver and Southern Comfort) apart from the rest of his work is that while they are undeniably influenced and pay tribute to other films, Walter Hill uses that as a springboard to put across his own stylistic and thematic concerns in the genres at hand.

They also contain western iconography but place it in modern situations (his screenplay for The Getaway as well) generally work best when kept bubbling below the surface, as I dislike certain overt references. For example the Bruce Dern "catch the cowboy desperado," line, almost as cheesy as a similar line from Michael Mann's Heat.

It struck me that Walter Hill films are derivative and self indulgent when he tackles the sources he admires, notably the Western/Frontier period head on. I should note that I have not seen the tv series Deadwood which Walter Hill helped intitiate (producer, directed the first episode) but from reading synopsis, Wild Bill seems to be a precursor to the series, so it may be worth a look for that reason alone.

I should explain the reason I'm writing so much about Walter Hill here is that I feel he had real potential for making uncompromising low budget genre films with ideas above their station. But who, with along with directors such as John Flynn and Michael Mann* have subsequently squandered their considerable talent in pursuit of the mainstream. I'm wondering if such film makers were the closest we'll ever get to the hard hitting programme fillers of the Hollywood studio era, as sadly these days low budget equals Steven Segal** and desperate rapper of the day.

*big ol' can of worms!
**who John Flynn ended up directing, for shame!

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RobertAltman
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#7 Post by RobertAltman » Sat Nov 24, 2007 9:17 am

akaten wrote:It struck me that Walter Hill films are derivative and self indulgent when he tackles the sources he admires, notably the Western/Frontier period head on. I should note that I have not seen the tv series Deadwood which Walter Hill helped intitiate (producer, directed the first episode) but from reading synopsis, Wild Bill seems to be a precursor to the series, so it may be worth a look for that reason alone.
Glad you mentioned Wild Bill, as it is probably his most underrated film IMO. It is a wonderful companion piece to Deadwood. Every second of the film you´re waiting for Al Swearangen to appear. Wild Bill is also similar to The Assasination of Jesse James... in that it is a characterdriven drama rather than an action picture, about one of the first American celebrities, who constantly has to look over his shoulder. Every wannabe gunslinger wants to be the man who shot Wild Bill. Another film I´d put in the "underrated" category is Johnny Handsome.

Walter Hill has cited Raoul Walsh as one his major influences, and even dedicated his Getaway script to him. I´ve never seen a Walsh film. Is he any good? This is a nice interview with Hill, focusing on his career as a scrennwriter:

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#8 Post by Cold Bishop » Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:01 pm

RobertAltman wrote:Walter Hill has cited Raoul Walsh as one his major influences, and even dedicated his Getaway script to him. I´ve never seen a Walsh film. Is he any good? This is a nice interview with Hill, focusing on his career as a scrennwriter:
Go watch The Roaring Twenties and White Heat right now.

And I will third the recommendation for The Driver as a pretty damn fine film, and the closest we'll ever come to an American "Melville".

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#9 Post by Polybius » Sun Nov 25, 2007 2:19 am

akaten wrote:I should note that I have not seen the tv series Deadwood which Walter Hill helped intitiate (producer, directed the first episode) but from reading synopsis, Wild Bill seems to be a precursor to the series, so it may be worth a look for that reason alone.

That's a fair assessment. That show really ended up missing Hickock's (and Carradine's) wry, ironic presence as it continued and Milch's pseudo-Mamet verbal bender just dragged on and on.

Johnny Handsome is worth watching just to see Lance Henrikson and Ellen Barkin really cut loose. No one has ever said the word "scumbag" better than she does in that film.

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#10 Post by ranaing83 » Sun Dec 02, 2007 9:45 pm

Right before this post went up, I rented Hard Times from netflix, and had been meaning to watch it. I finally got around to it a couple of days ago, only to find out that the dvd had only a pan-n-scan version, which I refuse to watch. I sent it back to netflix, but they say there is no way to know whether I will get a copy that has the widescreen version on it. Now, I like Walter Hill, Bronson and Coburn enough to blind buy this, but I was wondering, do any e-tailers sell the DVD that has the widescreen version on it, or have they been phased out completely? Does anyone know where I can get a copy?

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#11 Post by Jack Phillips » Sun Dec 02, 2007 11:26 pm

R2. I just ordered a copy form amazon.co.uk.

EDIT: If you want an NTSC disc, it looks like amazon.co.jp can steer you to one.

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#12 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Dec 19, 2007 11:04 am

RobertAltman wrote:This film, as well as several other Walter Hill films, is in serious need of a critical reevaluation. IMO genre films doesn´t get any better than this. Tight direction, delivers what it promises, and wonderful action scenes. Any thoughts on this film, and/or Walter Hills output in general?
I love many of Hill's films altho, I feel that Johnny Handsome may be his last truly great one (altho, I do like Wild Bill a helluva lot) but for me, The Driver, The Warriors, 48 HRS and Streets of Fire are all solid gold. Yeah, Fire has its flaws but it still works as kinetic action filmmaking at its finest. The editing is fantastic and Diane Lane looks great, as always. I also really like Extreme Prejudice which is a crackin' homage to Sam Peckinpah and a very underrated film.

There's a fantastic interview with Hill, here: http://www.filmint.nu/?q=node/23 It's in the form of downloadable PDF and definitely worth checking out as it goes through most of his career, with some fascinating insight into the studio dust-ups he had over 48 HRS and the Alien films.

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Re: BD ??? Hard Times

#13 Post by rapta » Tue Feb 14, 2017 11:43 am

April 24th.

Psyched for both of these April MoC titles! Might even make for a fun double-bill.

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Re: BD ??? Hard Times

#14 Post by rapta » Tue Feb 14, 2017 12:02 pm

Spine number: #157

Specs:
  • New 4K restoration
  • Uncompressed PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired
  • NFT Audio Interview with director Walter Hill
  • Original theatrical trailer
    PLUS: A booklet featuring new and archival writing and rare archival imagery

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Re: MoC Forthcoming, Wishlist and Random Speculation

#15 Post by Drucker » Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:21 pm

I have never seen a Charles Bronson film, and so separating the good stuff and the chaff is hard for me. Where does this one stand?

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Re: BD 157 Hard Times

#16 Post by TMDaines » Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:31 pm

You've not seen Once Upon a Time in the West? Run, don't walk to that one.

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Re: BD 157 Hard Times

#17 Post by Drucker » Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:37 pm

No I've seen that one, but I meant "Charles Bronson vehicle" films. The kind Twilight Time has released a ton of.

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Re: BD 157 Hard Times

#18 Post by rapta » Tue Feb 14, 2017 6:59 pm

I've admittedly only seen bits of Death Wish, but I personally have far more faith in early Walter Hill than in the careers of Michael Winner or a post-60's J. Lee Thompson.

PS: I do plan to pick up Mr. Majestyk, but that's more because Fleischer is a reliable filmmaker (and seems to be experiencing something of a renaissance on Blu-ray lately).

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Re: BD 157 Hard Times

#19 Post by sabbath » Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:01 pm

Hard Times is a good stuff. More of a 70s buddy road movie rather than a Charles Bronson vehicle actioner.

Not that I'm saying I hate the latter. In that category, 10 to Midnight is my favorite. Personally I don't understand why Michael Winner flicks are more famous than J. Lee Thompson ones. Thompson is better craftsman and even his lesser Bronson films have a certain sense of humor not unlike Brian de Palma's, while Michael Winner is dead serious in almost every scene but his lack of skill makes it all the more sillier. Of course I understand the fun of silliness, but still...

And please don't miss whimsical and profound western comedy From Noon Till Three, more of a Jill Ireland vehicle than a Charles Bronson one.

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Re: BD 157 Hard Times

#20 Post by beamish13 » Wed Feb 15, 2017 2:14 pm

Drucker wrote:No I've seen that one, but I meant "Charles Bronson vehicle" films. The kind Twilight Time has released a ton of.
The Canon/MGM classics. Shame that Olive and not Twilight got the incredibly scuzzy, depraved and outright racist Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects, which was one hell of a way for J. Lee Thompson to go out. Bronson had more left in him, though, as evidenced by his low-key turn in Sean Penn's stunning The Indian Runner.

Hard Times is Walter Hill at his peak; a young, highly successful screenwriter who'd already made his mark on the action genre with Hickey & Boggs and was aiming to make a tough-guy vehicle with something to say.

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Re: BD 157 Hard Times

#21 Post by domino harvey » Wed Feb 15, 2017 3:09 pm

By far the best Bronson film I've seen is Breakheart Pass, though placing Bronson in an Agatha Christie-style mystery is not exactly his norm

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Re: BD 157 Hard Times

#22 Post by rapta » Mon Apr 10, 2017 1:28 pm

Final specs:
  • New 4K digital restoration
  • Uncompressed PCM and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing-impaired
  • A new interview with co-writer/director Walter Hill
  • A new interview with producer Lawrence Gordon
  • A new interview with composer Barry DeVorzon
  • Excerpts from a 1984 interview with Walter Hill at the National Film Theatre, London
  • Original theatrical trailer
    PLUS: A 20-page booklet featuring Pauline Kael’s original 1975 New Yorker review of the film, and archival imagery.

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