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RICHARD HARRIS IN '99 AND 44/100% DEAD' W/ EDMOND O'BRIEN

year: 1974
This crime/comedy curio has a crazy title and a quirky dark comedic intro reminiscent of the comparably underpar THE GANG THAT COULDN'T SHOOT STRAIGHT, here involving an underwater mafia burial ground on the waterfront dock where a young mob upstart is moving in on an old-timer...

With capable direction by capable director John Frankenheimer and starring Richard Harris as a freelance hit-man/problem-fixer named Harry Crown, sheds its silly skin pretty damn quick...

Harris, hired by Edmond O'Brien as a cigar-smoking Uncle Frank, is so ultra serious his cemented expressions alone force the film into submission, adhering to a severe and violent plot-line: he must stop the other side from moving in on Frank's territory, and to keep the old fella... and himself, a partner and a few ladies... alive in the process.

99 MOVIE SCORE: ***1/2
Not like anything was wrong with the opening five minutes involving a cute whistling musical intro and an animated credit sequence, used on most of the poster artwork, but since edgy grit ruled the 1970's crime genre... and if you cut down an overlong love scene establishing good girl/love interest Anne Turkel and add a bit more to the old/young partnership of Harris and I DISMEMBER MAMA co-star Zooey Hall as the young, vulnerable but faithfully dependable Tony... this is a perfect fit for the always-intriguing Harris and serves as effective ammunition in the overall Frankenheimer crime canon.

With Janice Heiden
While O'Brien, in his last feature-length role, was said (by Peter Jason in a Cult Film Freak podcast) to be in ill heath, and not so "with it," on the set of Orson Welles' unfinished THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND, he does a fine job as the kind of mobster – though bordering on obvious satire – the likes of an era where the man himself derived: you can imagine a young Uncle Frank sharing a cell with James Cagney (but not undercover) only here he's...

Despite the situation of being bullied out of business by Bradford Dillman's intentionally overboard Big Eddie... having a fine life with one of the prettiest ladies of that decade, Janice Heiden as his favorite mistress, Clara, her wandering eyes glued on Harris's Crowne, older but not as old and also very fit, tough as nails and best yet, completely resilient.

From a hotel room shoot-out to a dangerous bridge battle against sadistic chief goon Chuck Conners, Harry's an assassin more the creative likes of James Bond than those gun-wilding lug-heads he's pitted against. His impossibility to fail makes the movie less suspenseful, sure, yet the entire bloody romp becomes more enjoyable – seeing just how many corners he can sneak into and out of and, on the film-making end, those nifty zooms and quick-edits are all part of the terrific, underrated, under-appreciated whole.
Opening Title Sequence for Edmond O'Brien's last film in 1974 along with a review of a 1954 Film Noir
Edmond O'Brien talks to while Janice Heiden makes eyes at Richard Harris in 99 AND 44/100% DEAD
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