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MARLON BRANDO STARRED IN AND DIRECTED '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 their copy of ONE-EYED JACKS in any drugstore's bargain basement, 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...

That said, anyone who actually believes there was a five-hour cut/version that director and star Marlon Brando wanted to hit theaters must be crazy. Not even a David Lean historical drama is three-hours for then a Western with a forty-five minute revenge plot to actually take this long. But all forms of creating art, from music to novels to film, start out as proverbial blocks of stone that are then sculpted down to an actual framework that works for an intended audience, and people seem to want that big blockey mass instead of this two-hour plus tale that, although flawed, has its own slowburn precision and sporadic genius within...

Timothy Carey fires at Brando in ONE-EYED JACKS
Brando plays a character named Rio robbing a Mexican bank with his 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 rich brown landscape, and every shot before and after neatly moves the story from one situation to the next...

It's too bad we don't see inside the Mexican prison Rio's sent as it would have added to his need for revenge a little later on. After he and prison-partner Larry Duran, who was Brando's stand-in/stunt double in many a film starting with VIVA ZAPATA, are seen running off from a jailbreak, there's a montage searching for Dad (featuring returning "redheaded" Mexican beauty, Miriam Colon), who we later learn through fellow outlaw and ultimate side-heavy Ben Johnson, is the sheriff of a California coastal town, giving this Western a unique crashing-wave look contrasting from most set in plateau-laden dusty Middle Americana.

Marlon Brando and Larry Duran in One-Eyed Jacks
Those scenes however, with Rio and his gang, also including a gross and despicable Sam Gillman (Brando's real life friend) as Johnson's sidekick, hanging out and waiting to finally rob Dad's small town's bank... including scenes with Louisa, daughter of Dad's wife and 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
In one scene during a fiesta before the bad guys and good guys become just that. Slim Pickens plays a wonderfully evil deputy while Timothy Carey has a neat cameo as a drunken lech Rio guns down for being too... well... downright lecherous, and like only Carey can...

Meanwhile, Elijah Cook has a smaller role as a bank teller, and both had starred in Stanley Kubrick's THE KILLING (the other riding an A-bomb later on), and history has it Kubrick was supposed to make this Western that Brando famously, or infamously, took over and, having spent too much money and with the uncut movie in studio purgatory for three or four years before being edited-down into this almost-classic's classic, you have to patiently mine for gold in ONE-EYED JACKS: where the good scenes last just long enough to provide just enough spice for Western buffs, and there's 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
Karl Malden with Mexican actress Miriam Colon in ONE-EYED JACKS
Miriam Colon, Ben Johnson (as Bob Emory) and Sam Gillman in ONE-EYED JACKS
Sam Sillman, Miriam Colon, Ben Johnson in ONE-EYED JACKS aka GUNS UP aka La vengeance aux deux visages
Tub of guts Timothy Carey dances with Margarita Cordova in ONE-EYED JACKS
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