I first saw Robert Clouse’s Darker Than Amber (1970) two years ago, which was a full 44 years after its initial release. That year, I counted it among the very best of what I saw, and I saw a lot of wonderful films. Why did it make such an impression? The separate elements of the film don’t necessarily lend themselves to a blockbuster experience: accomplished but not widely celebrated actors, an unlikely plot twist (though from sound material and adapted by author John D. MacDonald himself), a seasoned but not a virtuoso director, and a smaller budget. It’s a recipe that sounds ripe for tv fare. And yet, to paraphrase Cole, a curious “alchemy” has resulted in a smart, ferocious, gritty, and powerful film that has taken all those parts and made so much more. It’s a pleasure to follow the trail with this Travis McGee, a weary knight-errant with purpose, honor, and a sense of outrage. There is a deeply strong core to this story, these characters, and this film.
I’ll leave you with this question Cole has just asked me as I prepare this post: “If Travis knew Vangie’s history–her complicity in violence and mayhem–would he have set about to avenge her as he does?”
What you’ll find in this episode: a discussion of whether Travis McGee is a hero or anti-hero, the “feral” aspects of this film, Cole’s assessment of the casting and efficacy of Suzy Kendall, and why Theodore Bikel is so special to Ericca.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Darker Than Amber on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Night Moves.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Cape Fear.
Explore the fascinating life of William Smith and then watch the amazing final fight scene.
Want more action? Don’t miss this classic scene from Gymkata (also by Robert Clouse).
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