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PETER BOGDANOVICH DIRECTS BEN GAZARRA AS 'SAINT JACK'

Hugh Hefner & Roger Corman present Peter Bogdanovich directing Ben Gazzara in SAINT JACK Year: 1979 Rating: ****
SAINT JACK is the ironic nickname for Jack Flowers, a resilient American pimp in the late 1960's Singapore trying to run a "house," which isn't so easy with torturous thugs who, at one point when he finally owns his own brothel, doesn't allow it to prosper for very long...

All this before we learn about Jack's occupation by basically following him around, from location to location, within the gloriously sinful, uniquely dilapidated, exotically historic Singapore.
Ben Gazzara threatened by one of several non-acting yet palpable locals in SAINT JACK
Extremely similar to John Cassavetes' THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE where Ben plays an L.A. nightclub owner — and unlike Bogdanovich's last few mainstream, star-driven misfires — there's the primal hybrid of non-acting locals with real actors from America and England...

So the experienced semi-veteran actor intentionally downplays his performance into an ultra-realistic monotone that can sometimes seem rather dull, listless, lethargic...
Beloved British actor Denholm Elliott with Ben Gazzara in SAINT JACK
But mostly while he's striving to connect with various women (especially one in particular), who seem to be learning how to act as they go... After all, you can only do so much with complete non-professionals — especially when they hardly know English (unlike the much livelier BOOKIE strippers) and are thus struggling twofold...

Making the sporadic (and strategic) yearly sequences with affable British accountant Denholm Elliott truly stand out... as their dialogue really means something since Elliott's William (somewhat uncomfortable around boozing Brits James Villiers and Joss Ackland) becomes his only true and trusted friend... Especially since business, during the first act, is on the dodgy, unpredictable side...
Peter Bogdanovich with Monika Subramaniam and Ben Gazzara in SAINT JACK
Followed by Jack's second act jackpot — way "too good to be true" as he runs a mansion whorehouse/way-station for soldiers, which starts out lucrative but ultimately provides a sort of anti-war consciousness that haunts the Korean War vet and his stance on the infamous Vietnam War...

And playing the rich tycoon who hired Jack is Peter Bogdanovich himself, whose love of acting (and actors) never matched the fact he's simply not very interesting in front of the camera (imagine Snoopy playing a secret mobster)...
Ben Gazzara as a deflated Jack Flowers walks the Singapore dawn in SAINT JACK
But on the other side of the lens, the flowing use of location as character and slow-burn suspense is wielded perfectly by the eclectic director, garnering an artistic comeback from the critics who had long abandoned him... 

If only Peter's mentor Orson Welles — originally promised the director's chair before executive producer Hugh Hefner decided not to gamble with the brilliant flake — played Peter's powerful cigar-smoking character who, in the suspenseful third act, hires Jack for a "mission" that turns this indie pimp picture into a sort of calculating spy thriller...
Peter Bogdanovich, Monika Subramaniam, George Lazenbyh and Ben Gazzara in SAINT JACK
Ironically it's one-time James Bond actor George Lazenby he's tailing (while earlier on, in an unrelated scene, Jack has two transvestites dance to the famous theme from the Sean Connery Bond classic GOLDFINGER)...

So now, the once ambiguous pimp must choose between what's right or wrong, struggling to figuring out if there is such a thing given his shady occupation...
Peter Bogdanovich directs Ben Gazzara as Jack Flowers in the cult film SAINT JACK
And while the turnout shouldn't be spoiled, the best thing about SAINT JACK is watching the now legendary Ben Gazzara act like he owns a city he simply shouldn't be in... not unlike his CHINESE BOOKIE character was back home — both on a dire road they're all too familiar with...

Because no one can combine desperation, cockiness, charm and obliviousness better than Gazarra who, even when getting beaten to a pulp, seems completely untouchable, somehow.
Great opening credit shot and font for SAINT JACK directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Peter Bogdanovich directs Ben Gazzara as Jack Flowers in SAINT JACK
Saint Jack/Roger Corman collection DVD signed by actor George Lazenby
A rather odd looking once Bond actor George Lazenby hits (or flits) the town in SAINT JACK
Ben Gazzara as Jack Flowers peaking into a Bonded tryst in SAINT JACK
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