Old is New – The Getaway (1972)
Monday, November 16, 2009 1:01 PM
When he earned his Master's Degree in Drama from the University of Southern California in 1950, Sam Peckinpah ended his involvement in theater and started work in television, which he saw as his way into the movies. Growing up in California in the 30s, he spent much of his
formative years riding horses, branding cattle and shooting firearms.
His college years were preceded by service in the US Marines. His combative spirit got him into trouble, but he wrote for and directed several TV shows, actually writing the original screenplay that became the series The Rifleman. He worked with Don Siegel on four occasions before finally directing his first feature. But it was his second film, Ride the High Country, that put him on the map as a major filmmaker. The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs are classics which helped earn him the nickname, "Bloody Sam." In 1972, Mr. Peckinpah would team up with Steve McQueen for an adaptation of Jim Thompson's The Getaway.
The movie's opening titles are interwoven with Doc McCoy's (Steve McQueen) life inside a prison, and set to the rhythmic workings of the machinery in the prison shop. He finally makes parole after instructing his wife Carol (Ali MacGraw) to do whatever is necessary to get him out. She picks him up outside the prison, and then he tries to figure out what's next.
The next step turns out to be repaying a corrupt business man for using his influence to free him from prison. A robbery has been planned, and Doc is to help make it happen. Along with Carol he will be working with Rudy (Al Lettieri) and Frank. The bank robbery goes bad. Rudy kills Frank and attempts to kill Doc, but he gets the best of him and Doc and Carol take off with the money. Rudy is left for dead, but was wearing a bulletproof vest and isn't too happy to be out that much cash. Another attempted double-cross with the man behind the job leads the couple to make a run for the border, but as you can imagine, that will be anything but simple. On top of that, when Doc finds out what Carol had to do to get him out of prison, he's not so sure he wants her around anyway.
This film was one of the most financially lucrative of Mr. Peckinpah's career. The story is less than extraordinary, but the presence of McQueen and the direction from Peckinpah make it a very good thriller, which was their goal at the time since they both needed a hit. Ali MacGraw is an example of a model turned actress who can't really act. This doesn't detract much since McQueen and the bit characters (Lettieri, Sally Struthers and Slim Pickens) do a wonderful job. The editing of the opening credits is a great example of visual storytelling. Overall the look is fantastic, especially the explosive shootouts. Seeing this film gives you mere flashes of the talent of Mr. Peckinpah, but you get a full dose of Steve McQueen cool.
The movie got a standard DVD release in 1997. A deluxe edition was released in 2005. The picture is widescreen and the audio is Dolby Digital 1.0. Extras include some commentary and a featurette as well as the trailer. A Blu-ray disc was released in 2007.
The Way of the Gun has a certain resemblence to The Getaway and other films by Mr. Peckinpah. It deserves a second look. In Deathproof, two characters get out of a car and squat down to have a discussion just as they do in this movie. And we aren't going to mention the 1994 remake.