The Seventies were a great time for manly gangster movies. Tough, silent Steve McQueen types would cruise the streets of San Francisco or LA (or New York) working outside the law and often outside the rules set by the mob. Some of the greatest caper movies came from this era, and Machine Gun McCain stands as a forgotten classic of the genre.
After twelve years in prison, Henry “Machine Gun” McCain (John Cassavetes) gets to breathe free air. He’s hardly out of the joint for five minutes before he becomes involved in a low-level mob boss’s (played by Peter Falk) plan to get revenge on a powerful don. The plan goes awry, as plans often do, and McCain decides to take revenge in his own imitable way: with style and a machine gun.
Women really don’t serve a person other than as set pieces. Britt Ekland plays McCain’s main squeeze and I think she said maybe ten words throughout the whole movie. Her only job in the film is to look good, and to her credit, she does that very well. There are only two other women in this movie, other than the extras, and neither of them fare much better. Peter Falk’s wife is a conniving, cheating manipulator, and Gena Rowlands is a tough, sharp-tongued broad who immediately lets McCain walk all over her the minute he re-enters her life.
Like it or not, that’s part of the genre, and as it stands, Machine Gun McCain holds up well against the classics.
It’s fun to see Peter Falk as a heavy, and Gena Rowlands steals the movie for the full seven minutes she’s onscreen, but what really sells the movie is John Cassavetes as McCain. He plays McCain as a complete and total bastard, but his natural charisma and screen presence make you root for the guy anyway. The only problem I had with the movie was with its ending, a bit of a downer in a film aiming to set up a happy ending.
I really enjoyed Machine Gun McCain. It’s another lost European classic that Blue Underground has unearthed and given new life on Blu-ray. As far as hard boiled crime stories go, this one is as hard as a rock.
The movie is presented in Widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio in 1080p HD Resolution with the audio in English DTS-HD Mono. English, French, and Spanish subtitles are provided for the hearing impaired and non-English speakers. In terms of quality, this is a very good transfer. The picture is sharp and clear, as was the sound. This is an Italian movie and as such was dubbed, so those unfamiliar with that filming style may be taken aback by the slight disconnect between the character’s lips and the sound coming out of them, but I always find that somewhat charming.
Like most Blue Underground releases, Machine Gun McCain is light on the extras. This if fine with me given I never watch extras unless I’m reviewing a movie, but fans of bonus features may not like that.
Interview with Director Giuliano Montaldo
The only thing that would have made this movie better is if Steve McQueen had played a role. But even McQueen-less, this is a great forgotten classic of the caper genre. Recommended.
Blue Underground presents Machine Gun McCain. Directed by: Giuliano Montaldo. Starring: John Cassavetes, Britt Ekland, Gena Rowlands, and Peter Falk. Written by: Mino Roli. Running time: 96 minutes. Rating: NR. Released on DVD: August 24, 2010.