June 13, 2024

Two Kooky Curiosities from SYDNEY POLLACK

1969 & 1977 / 230 min (2 movies)
Review by Mr. Paws😼

Sydney Pollack has directed some great films, including a handful of inarguable classics. These two lesser-known titles, part of Mill Creek Entertainment’s Director Spotlight series, don’t rank among them (one might even be his worst). Still, they are interesting curiosities - for different reasons - and currently only available on this double-feature Blu-ray.

Castle Keep is an oddball anti-war film starring Burt Lancaster, who often indulged his penchant for subversiveness at this stage of his career. Though set during World War II, it’s sort of a commentary on the conflict in Vietnam, a topic that was apparently of personal interest to Lancaster. Spotty, episodic and sometimes too immersed in the hippie aesthetic of the era, the film is light on action until the final act, and even then, it’s more esoteric than exciting. Still, the film is occasionally thought-provoking, funny and features some engagingly quirky characters (Peter Falk is wonderful).

Al gets sucker-punched.
Considering the caliber of talent on both sides of the camera, and the two studios that collaborated to release it, it’s almost shocking that 1977’s Bobby Deerfield is such a daffy dumpster fire. Al Pacino is the title character, a Formula 1 driver who falls in love with a flighty, terminally-ill woman (Marthe Keller). The two stars try their best, but the film is languidly paced, with pretentious attempts at artiness and some howlingly goofy dialogue (including an intellectually-stimulating conversation about “homos”). On the plus side, it looks pretty, and if viewed as an unintentional comedy, might be good for a few chuckles.

For a true introduction to Sydney Pollack’s work, one is obviously advised to look elsewhere (Three Days of the Condor & Absence of Malice would be great starting points). But if nothing else, this disc is a reminder that the director was willing to take a shot at any genre, even if he sometimes missed.

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