“I want my money. I want my $93,000.”
Lee Marvin was one of the greatest actors who ever graced the silver screen but there has rarely been a film so suited to his unique talents. Lee Marvin originated the project and brought a little-known British director in, John Boorman, to whom he deferred all of his creative control to, something that was unprecedented. Boorman had previously only directed the pop movie Catch Us If You Can with the Dave Clark Five. They both disliked the original Alex Walker script within itself, although that script was very influential and became a model that many people were paying attention to—it would be a profound influence on Walter Hill’s approaching to screenwriting, for example, and especially his film The Driver. But Boorman and Marvin took only the smallest amount possible from the script, creating their own film instead.
Point Blank originated as a novel, The Hunter by Richard Stark. Stark was the pen name that pulp writer Donald E. Westlake used for his long-running Parker series. The first appearance of the mysterious master thief Parker was in The Hunter. The Parker series has been adapted to screen many times, including an unofficial adaptation of one of the novels by Godard, Made in U.S.A., with Anna Karina playing what is basically the Parker role. The other Parker film to seek out is The Outfit. Point Blank has also been “remade” twice, firstly as The Payback with Mel Gibson and more recently with Jason Statham in Parker. The author would only allow official adaptations that followed his books very closely, which is why almost all “Parker” films use a different name for the central character.
Walker (the film’s Parker character) commits a robbery on Alcatraz but is left for dead by his friend, who makes off with Walker’s wife, Lynn (Angie Dickenson). The rest of the film is basically Walker on a rampage to get his money back—although it’s uncertain that the money is what he’s really after.
Despite all the various adaptations, none have come even remotely close to what Lee Marvin and Boorman did with the character. It’s an action crime thriller on its surface, but arguably a ghost revenge story, as there has been much debate about whether Walker (the Parker character) actually dies in the opening and is actually a ghost seeking revenge on the people who double-crossed him. Boorman has never confirmed whether this was his intention over the years, but he has entertained the notion that it might be so, including on the commentary track he did with Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh has himself admitted he has ripped off Point Blank numerous times, most notably in The Limey.
Boorman’s visual eye was a powerful influence on the film, especially with his choice to use heightened colours that almost border on the hallucinogenic at times. Boorman credits Marvin with a lot of the visuals, but he may be selling himself slightly short. As the film progresses, it latches onto a very stark colour, like yellow or blue, with the crazed nightclub scene being a particular highlight. It’s very similar to what Nicholas Winding Refn does in his films, like Drive or Only God Forgives, and indeed the working relationship of Gosling and Refn was based on how Boorman and Marvin worked on Point Blank. However, Refn mainly does it because he is partially colour blind and can only see a handful of colours.
The film’s structure was also more akin to European art films than a Hollywood production. It’s no surprise that the film came out the same year as Bonnie & Clyde, which despite some overt new wave touches, is very much in the tradition of the Warner Bros. gangster films of the ’30s. Point Blank is by far the more radical film. despite all the attention being put on Bonne & Clyde. Point Blank expertly uses a fractured time-line and these long scenes that in a second can turn hyper-violent (which might be why it’s still rated 18, although should be a 15 to be honest). When Point Blank was released, it was not a huge success, although a few critics picked up on it. Over time it has become an influential cult classic, however, having brought the European existential crime film model to Hollywood. This is a style and sensibility that can then be seen in a long line of films from Bullitt to Drive.
This Premium collection release is a HMV exclusive. It includes postcards and the film on Blu-Ray and DVD and it’s all in a nice slipcase. The special features are sparse but worthwhile a commentary by John Boorman and Steven Soderbergh is the main draw but there is also a vintage short featurette which is split in two shorter parts.