- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
When one thinks of terrific comic actors of the 1960s, thoughts immediately turn to Jack Lemmon or Jerry Lewis, Cary Grant or maybe even Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson, but George C. Scott is probably one of the last actors one might think of in a comedy role. And yet the highly regarded dramatic actor appeared in more than a handful of comic-tinged films during his long career, and in Irvin Kershner’s The Flim-Flam Man, he gives what is probably his most secure comic performance by not trying to be especially funny. He can’t help it, though: his sense of impish fun and canny mischief makes this one of his most delectable screen roles.
The Flim-Flam Man
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Studio: Twilight Time (Fox)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 104 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: August 16, 2011
Review Date: August 22, 2011
An AWOL soldier nicknamed Curley (Michael Sarrazin) meets up with celebrated con man Mordecai Jones (George C. Scott) while they’re both on the lam. Seems Mordecai has a reputation for fleecing innocents all throughout the South, and as he’s in need of a partner to help him pull off his short cons, he enlists Curley’s help. Curley, though, has a conscience, and he never feels quite right about their jobs even when those getting pinched aren’t always entirely honest themselves. On one of their cons, Curley meets up with Bonnie Lee Packard (Sue Lyons) whose beauty so captivates him that he decides he wants to give up both thieving and running from the MPs and come clean so he can have the chance of building a life with Bonnie some day. Mordecai, of course, has other ideas for his future.
Though the saccharine romantic interludes between Curley and Bonnie intrude mightily on the fun and frolic of the various cons the duo pulls during the film, it’s the cons themselves and, in particular, one spectacularly staged and shot escape sequence that will stick with the viewer once the film has concluded. Director Irvin Kershner stages the runaway thieves eluding the law in a masterpiece of comic mayhem that remains one of the most hilarious and astoundingly involving escapes in film history. Almost like one of those infamous James Bond chases which go on for five minutes or so and destroy almost everything in sight, this one does that but also has a ring of truth about it. The ring of truth also infuses itself on so much of the Southern fried atmosphere of the movie with those authentic-looking general stores and abandoned buildings where folks could camp out when times were tough and the railroads which pass through towns offering endless possibilities to hop on board and travel to some place new and so to set up stakes once again. William Rose's script gets the details both large and small just about perfect.
George C. Scott is having a terrific time with this rascal (“greed is my business” is his watchword) even if the makeup used to age him looks very phony and unworthy of an A-list project from a major studio. Michael Sarrazin makes a terrific screen debut in this film as the genuinely good and kind Curley even if he sometimes lets his Southern accent slip a bit. Sue Lyon has even more trouble with her Southern brogue pretty much abandoning it altogether in several scenes. She’s stunning to look at, though, and one can understand how Curley’s head could be turned so easily. The film boasts an incredible array of character actors all of whom add whimsy and dunderheaded fun to the movie’s con game shenanigans. Harry Morgan as the stubborn sheriff who refuses to be swayed from his duty gets made the most fool of. Albert Salmi’s Deputy Meshaw comes in for some of that humiliation, too. Others conned by the expert old fakir include blustery Slim Pickens, slippery store owner Strother Martin, and Bonnie’s outraged parents played so superbly by Jack Albertson and Alice Ghostley.
The film’s Panavision theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 2.35:1 transfer that’s anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Sharpness is above average throughout the presentation, and color is pleasing without being deeply saturated. Flesh tones look realistic and nicely delivered. Black levels aren’t the best, but shadow detail doesn’t suffer much due to the average black levels. There is a fair amount of dust specks, a tiny bit of debris and damage, and the reel change markers are there for all to see. The film has been divided into 11 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound mix is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. Dialogue is well recorded and always completely discernible, and the sound effects and Jerry Goldsmith’s jaunty score occupy the track without ever overpowering the dialogue or causing distortion. As with most mono mixes of the era, the highs and lows don’t get much attention, but the mix is a good-average effort very representative of its era.
The film’s theatrical trailer is presented in nonanamorphic letterbox and runs for 2 minutes.
Jerry Goldsmith’s entertaining if spare country-tinged score is presented in a strong isolated stereo audio track.
The enclosed seven-page booklet contains some wonderful color and black and white stills and behind-the-scenes shots, the theatrical poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s bountifully informative essay on the film and its participants.
3.5/5 (not an average)
As part of Twilight Time’s limited availability program, only 3,000 copies of The Flim-Flam Man are available. Those interested in experiencing this amiable comedy-romance with George C. Scott ‘s frisky chicanery at the forefront should hop to www.screenarchives.com to see if copies are still available. They can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies .