This week's “Movies” list topic for the Chris Vernon Show is very similar to last week's: What can I do? Summer is all about action movies.
Last week was “Man on the Run,” based on the remake of Total Recall. This week, the theme doubles up for “Lovers on the Lam,” based on current box-office leader The Bourne Legacy, where Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz are on the run together. (Okay, they aren't lovers — yet.)
I usually try to throw the radio audience a bone and have at least one or two semi-recent films on the list. I strongly considered the current Moonrise Kingdom, but with five unassailable classics of the genre all pre-dating the Carter Administration, that just wasn't possible here:
5. Gun Crazy (1950): Classic “B” movie sometimes known as Deadly is the Female. Directed by Joseph Lewis and starring John Dall and Peggy Cummins as a married couple who go on a wild crime spree, in which the wife, an Annie Oakley-style shooting ace, turns out to be the most dangerous and aggressive part of the team. A technical marvel considering the budget, full of superb long takes.
4. They Live By Night (1949): The debut feature from director Nicholas Ray, who would make a bigger splash with Rebel Without a Cause six years later. This expressionistic noir stars Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell as “Bowie” and “Keechie.” He's a teenager who was wrongly imprisoned for murder and escapes, helps rob a bank, and goes on the run. She's the daughter of an acquaintance who harbors Granger's crew. They fall in love and go on the run together. Probably the most romantic example of the genre and a classic debut film.
3. Pierrot Le Fou (1965): Jean-Luc Godard's French New Wave version of "Lovers on the Lam," with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina on a crime spree from Paris to the Mediterranean, chased by gangsters. A simultaneous tribute to and deconstruction of Hollywood genre movies, filmed in Cinemascope with eye-popping primary colors and with such playful bits as having the characters break the fourth wall and letting American filmmaker Samuel Fuller play himself at a party, where he offers his own martial definition of cinema.
2. Badlands (1973): Terence Malick's debut and still his most commercial film. The real-life story of 1950s killer Charlie Starkweather and his teen girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate is given a fictionalized twist, starring a young Martin Sheen and a young Sissy Spacek. Poetic, both in the sun-kissed outdoor cinematography and Spacek's voiceover, but more accessible than later Malick works.
1. Bonnie & Clyde (1967): Director Arthur Penn's groundbreaking version of perhaps the definitive “lovers on the lam” story, with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in the title roles. A mythic variation that incorporates then-shocking realism in terms of its violence. Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard, and Gene Wilder (in his feature-film debut) lead a terrific supporting cast. Maybe one of the most purely entertaining “great American films” of the post-“classic Hollywood” era — and era it helped end.