Wednesday, April 13, 2011

MACHINE GUN McCAIN (Blu-ray)

This disc came out from Blue Underground a few months ago, but - I'm embarrassed to admit - my review copy got buried under some junk on my desk, and I forgot about it. Fortunately, I decided to do a little office cleaning this week, or who knows when I might have discovered the genuine joys of MACHINE GUN McCAIN (1969), a stylish, late-Sixties crime caper with a fantastic International cast.

Hank McCain (John Cassavetes, THE DIRTY DOZEN,THE KILLERS) is sprung from prison by a Mob boss named Charlie Adamo (Peter Falk, COLUMBO) to rob a Las Vegas casino owned by one of Adamo's rivals. Unfortunately, Adamo is persuaded - in the name of good "Family" relations - to call off the job, and leaves McCain hanging in the wind. Pissed off, McCain decides to rob the casino anyway, and pulls off a daring, one-man heist before taking it on the lam with his new bride (sexy Britt Ekland, THE WICKER MAN). Unsurprisingly, he finds himself relentlessly hunted by the forces of American organized crime - and their corrupt, law enforcement allies - and increasingly desperate to escape the country....

An Italian production, McCAIN features a remarkable International cast, capably directed by Giuliano Montaldo (who also helmed another of my favorite 60s Eurocrime heist flicks, GRAND SLAM). Aside from Americans Casavetes, Falk, and British Ekland, the cast includes Eurocrime stalwarts Gena Rowlands, Gabriele Ferzetti, and Tony Kendall. While most of the interiors were shot in Rome, the production did go on location in San Francisco and Las Vegas, and the lush widescreen cinematography by Erico Menczer really makes the most of those settings. The score, by maestro Ennio Morricone, is (unsurprisingly) great, too.

Blue Underground's Blu-ray edition of this underrated (an uncharacteristically dim Leonard Maltin gave it paltry two stars!) gem is amazing, with an eye-popping, crystal sharp, 2.35:1 1080p HD transfer and clean, clear DTS-HD Mono audio. The picture quality is quite remarkable - the gorgeous Ekland looks especially stunning in high def. Supplements include an informative interview with director Montaldo, and the U.S. & Italian theatrical trailers. (Seeing what a good job Blue Underground did with this disc has me hoping that they'll re-issue Montaldo's GRAND SLAM on Blu-Ray soon.)

Before this release, MACHINE GUN McCAIN was generally only available in the U.S. as severely compromised, butchered, pan & scan TV prints, which probably accounts for the movie not being better-known or better-regarded. But now, thanks to Blue Underground, this great Sixties crime flick can be seen in its correct form, and properly reevaluated. Highly recommended.

BUYMachine Gun McCain [Blu-ray]