Mediocre: The Glove

The Glove (1979)
Directed by Ross Hagen
Written by Ross Hagen, Hugh Smith, Julian Roffman
Produced by Julian Roffman, William B. Silberkleit
Starring John Saxon, Rosey Grier, Joanna Cassidy, Misty Bruce, Michael Pataki, Howard Honig, Jack Carter, Joan Blondell, Keenan Wynn
Lex talionis enforced by a beefy ex-convict and jazz guitarist (Grier) seems less tenable than venial when he endues a panoply of stolen riot gear to stalk and clobber prison guards with its barbarically powerful, discontinued gauntlet of a make to which they wrongly subjected him during his penal stint. His premium bounty attracts the interest of a bounty hunter and compulsive gambler (Saxon) desperate to discharge ample arrears, as child support so to maintain contact with his daughter (Bruce). Its fine and familiar leads cement this piffling crime drama: Saxon renders likable a deadbeat apprehending deadbeats, and his verbalization of a schmaltzy voice-over nearly sops its syrup; likewise, Grier confers to a character whose duplicity might seem otherwise ludicrous a believable righteousness. Cult B-actor Hagen handled these proceedings passably, but Robert Fitzgerald’s execrable editing, a bathetic, brassy score by Robert Raglan as evocative of institutional televised fare as a cheesy rotation of successive dissolves, excursus that amount to naught (such as a quasi-romantic interlude with Cassidy’s estate agent) and no few farcical fights specially (mis)directed by producer-screenwriter Roffman all accrue to conflux like bilge water though a flimsy hull. When Saxon isn’t monologically dwelling on his pernicious habitude or his daughter’s precious affection, he’s engaging a bone-swinging, butcherly bond jumper or placating a contemptibly sleazy rival played a mile over the top by Pataki. Praiseworthy as a treatment of police brutality and bigotry that neither preaches to its audience nor presents its genuinely pitiable antagonist as a blameless magic negro, Hagen’s pet project is withal too goofy to recommend or ignore.

Favorites: Opening Night

Opening Night (1977)
Directed and written by John Cassavetes
Produced by Sam Shaw, Al Ruban, Michael Lally
Starring Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, Joan Blondell, John Cassavetes, Paul Stewart, Laura Johnson, Zohra Lampert
The sudden death of an especially frantic fan (Johnson) following a theatrical performance is the catalyst that triggers its famous, jaded leading lady’s (Rowlands) inevitable midlife crisis, prompting increasingly aberrant dysfunction, oppugnance to her role of a woman suffering the wane of her allure and all its associated power, and delusive encounters with the deceased as a reflection of her teenage self: initially affectionate visitations that lapse by realization to violent confrontations. Even as the volatile actress struggles by rationalization to deny all affinity to her wholly apposite persona during a succession of ebullitions and collapses, she’s perforce the precessing lynchpin around which everyone in her compass revolves: the veteran playwright (Blondell) torn between fascination and frustration in observance of this tempest and equanimous producer (Stewart) who patiently weathers it, a former lover and co-star (Cassavetes) wisely distanced to sustain their professional relationship, her rock of a director (Gazzara) scarcely at amorous arm’s length from the star he adores, and his quietly long-suffering wife (Lampert), whose envy of her is tempered by respect. Cassavetes’ sixth collaboration with his spouse and most disastrous flop is one of his very finest films, shot in Pasadena with moderate experiment to maximize its evocation of shock, intimacy and the disquiet thrill of dramaturgy. By relegating himself to an imperative yet fittingly unflattering character, the independent icon situated himself optimally to work his experient cast to their utmost, substantiating both his trademark verisimilitude — essentially a motional still-life in close-up — and the veneer of staged artifice as parts parallel personalities. More indisposed than incapable of tackling her role’s rigors, the frailties of Rowlands’ lead dissolve the fourth wall to her attendees’ mixed disdain and ovation — indulgences culminating at the contemporaneity of her drunken prostration and the play’s premiere in New York as an extemporary episode of unexpectedly triumphal compliance to her production’s burden and audience’s appetites. Regrettably, this feature’s transient, overlooked theatrical runs in L.A. and NYC didn’t mirror the eclat of its conclusion.