Saturday, December 11, 2010
St. Ives (1976)
It's always nice to check out a movie sight unseen and come away with a new favorite. Charles Bronson plays Raymond St. Ives, a writer of crime stories who lives in a shabby hotel, is lousy gambler (betting on the Rams in the mid-seventies, never a good idea) and occasionally does the odd bit of detective work here and there. He's hired by Abner Procane (John Houseman), an eccentric millionaire (aren't they all?) who is negotiating the return of some important documents that have been stolen from him.
Procane turns out to be a master thief (the plans for his next big job are the stolen documents) and there are twists and turns a plenty as St. Ives weaves his through overzealous cops, the obligatory gorgeous woman with a secret (played by Jacqueline Bisset) and the usual assortment of thugs one tends to find in this sort of movie.
Despite the occasional flaw in logic (the first guy Procane thinks of to get his property back is a novelist?), pretty much everything works in this movie. Direction is solid as J. Lee Thompson hadn't sunk to the levels he would reach in the eighties with...Well with pretty much every movie he did during that decade. Seriously, when you have not one but two awful Indiana Jones knock-offs on your resume that's saying something!
The film has a light, breezy feel to it that is helped immensely by the performances. Bronson is utterly entertaining as a laid back guy who doesn't let too many things bother him, even being betrayed by a beautiful woman. He's actually quite funny in parts, not something you often got from the man given how grim most of his movies tended to be.
Bisset and Houseman do good work with their roles as does everyone else. Maximillian Schell has a fun role as Procane's doctor and Elisha Cook Jr. does his usual thing as a hotel clerk. In fact, this is a great movie to play Spot the Star as quite a few smaller parts are filled by notable actors such as Jeff Goldblum, Michael Lerner, Robert Englund and Daniel J. Travanti.
The detective story is a lost art in my opinion, this movie is a nice little forgotten gem of a movie.