Written by / 9/02/2019 / No comments / , , , , , , , , , , , ,

MARLON BRANDO IN HIS BROODING WESTERN 'ONE-EYED JACKS'

Marlon Brando aims at Timothy Carey in ONE-EYED JACKS
There's an obscure, now forgotten cult of Marlon Brando fans, or Western fans, or both, who found a copy of ONE-EYED JACKS in any drugstore's bargain basement (actually two copies with different covers); and before the incredibly remastered Criterion Blu Ray, we lived on this overlong mess of a wonderfully-flawed epic that's only problem was being an epic in the first place...

And anyone who believes there's a five-hour version that director/star Marlon Brando intended for a theatrical audience, must be crazy. Not even a David Lean historical drama is three-hours for a Western with a twenty minute revenge plot to actually take three hours longer. But all forms of creating art, from music to novels to film, start out as proverbial blocks sculpted down to an actual framework that works for an intended audience, and people seem to want that rumored big blocky mass instead of this two-hour plus tale that, although flawed, has its own slowburn precision and sporadic genius within...

Miriam Colon and Karl Malden in ONE-EYED JACKS
Brando plays Rio, robbing a Mexican bank with partner Dad Longworth, who Karl Malden plays with sympathetic toughness, intense prowess and later making him a creepy sort of subtle, in-denial double-crossing villain. But that's skipping ahead. The real plot begins with Dad ditching Rio at an overpass after escaping from said robbery in one of the best shot scenes where the VistaVision gorgeously pans down at the windy desert landscape, and every shot before and after neatly moves the story from one situation to the next...

It's unfortunate we don't see inside the Mexican prison Rio's sent, which might have added to his need for revenge (Brando obviously shot something in there during those five hours). After he and prison-partner Larry Duran, who was Brando's stand-in/stunt double for many films starting with VIVA ZAPATA, are seen running off from a jailbreak, there's a montage searching for Dad, featuring Spanish beauty Míriam Colón as Red, who turned up before and after Rio's capture: He finally learns through fellow outlaw and ultimate side-heavy (and Red's Cantina customer) Ben Johnson that Dad's now the sheriff of a California coastal town, giving this Western more of a wave-crashing, Monterrey-looking John Steinbeck flavor than ZAPATA, which Steinbeck actually wrote.

Marlon Brando and Larry Duran in One-Eyed Jacks
Unfortunately, particular scenes with Rio and his gang... also including a gross and despicable Sam Gillman (Brando's real life buddy) as Johnson's sidekick, hanging out and waiting to finally rob the town's bank, including scenes with Louisa, daughter of Dad's wife, who he himself also obviously has his sights on... drag on endlessly.

At one point there are two overlong back-to-back conversations between the same two characters in the same slow cadence, Brando and ingenue Pina Pellicer: he tells her in the morning that everything he'd said at night was a complete lie, making the previous conversation unnecessary. So, like during the Outlaw sequences in Mexico, the best moments occur back in town...

A brooding Brando in ONE-EYED JACKS Rates: ***1/2
Especially the town's big fiesta, occurring right before the bad guys and good guys become just that. Slim Pickens plays a wonderfully evil deputy while Timothy Carey provides a fun cameo as a drunken lech Rio guns down for being too... well... downright lecherous, like only Carey can...

Meanwhile, Elijah Cook gets a smaller role as a bank teller, and both he and Carey appeared in Stanley Kubrick's THE KILLING...

And history has it Kubrick was supposed to make this Western that Brando famously, or infamously, took over. Which then remained in studio purgatory for several years before being edited-down into this almost-classic's classic, where the good scenes last just long enough to become a sort of melancholy drinking/hangout flick with another brilliantly subdued performance by Brando, the most natural actor captured on film: Only here he's his own... for better or worse... prisoner throughout.
Flat-hat-headed Karl Malden & Marlon Brando team a third time in ONE-EYED JACKS
Marlon Brando and Pina Pellicer in ONE-EYED JACKS
Míriam Colón, Ben Johnson (as Bob Emory) and Sam Gillman in ONE-EYED JACKS
 Sam Gilman, Míriam Colón, Ben Johnson in ONE-EYED JACKS aka GUNS UP aka La vengeance aux deux visages
Míriam Colón as Red with Marlon Brando as Rio in ONE-EYED JACKS
Ben Johnson and Sam Gilman in ONE-EYED JACKS
dMarlon Brando in ONE-EYED JACKS
Marlon Brando in ONE-EYED JACKS
A brooding Marlon Brando in the Southern Western sea coastal ONE-EYED JACKS
Karl Malden as Dad Longworth in Marlon Brando's One-Eyed Jacks
Katy Jurado, Karl Malden, Pina Pellicer and Marlon Brando in ONE-EYED JACKS
Tub of guts Timothy Carey dances with Margarita Cordova in ONE-EYED JACKS
Tub of guts Timothy Carey dances with Margarita Cordova in ONE-EYED JACKS

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