It was early in my days with the Trylon when I feel in love with Lancaster when we showed The Sweet Smell of Success, a movie so dark, so mean, so grim that it’s hard to believe it was ever made. Shortly thereafter I went on a noir bender and saw Lancaster in both The Killers and Criss Cross, which only cemented my love of Lancaster.
So imagine my excitement when we announced a whole month of Lancaster! 11 films, 9 of which were new to me. Now that we’re half-way through the month, I thought I’d offer a brief summary of what we’ve shown so far and what we have coming up. If you’ve missed the films so far, there’s still plenty of great movies coming up.
Tonight and tomorrow we’ll be showing Ulzana’s Raid, which Trylon regular John Bloomfield has already introduced quite well. But I’m interested in seeing it as a companion piece to The Professionals. That earlier film straddled the line between straightforward western and the darker, introspective westerns that began to appear in the 60s. For all its attempts at grimy characters with questionable morals, The Professionals remained a bit too glossy and clean. But by the time Ulzana was made, all that sheen had been stripped from the western, and I’m very excited to see how Lancaster approaches a truly dark Western.
This weekend is double dose of Lancaster/Frankenheimer. The Train is what I expect from the pairing, a stunt-heavy action film, with the physically amazing Lancaster doing all his own stunts. The Train falls nicely in line with films like The Swimmer and Trapeze as a film that highlights Lancaster’s intense physicality, and I’m very excited to see how Frankenheimer puts Lancaster to use.
On the utter opposite end of the spectrum is Birdman of Alcatraz a biopic set almost entirely in a prison cell, a weird work in both of Lancaster and Frankenheimer’s careers. The subject of Robert Stroud seems so far from Lancaster’s usual wheelhouse of energetic, charming characters. But as he showed in The Killers, he had the ability to play quiet, internal men as well. So, while much of Birdman looks like a prototypical “Prestige Picture”, I’m interested in seeing it for a restrained (in more than ways than one) Lancaster.
On the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving we show Run Silent, Run Deep, another film that constrains the effervescent Lancaster, this time by both the walls of a submarine and the laws of his captain, Clark Gable. Made right after Sweet Smell of Success, the film looks to be a more traditional studio product after that paradigm-smashing masterpiece. The pairing of Lancaster and Gable is the big draw for me, as this is the only film we’re showing in this series where Lancaster share’s the screen with a ‘classic’ star, someone just as able of dominating the screen as he was.
Our final Lancaster film is one of his best known, From Here to Eternity. Known as a soapy romance, the film also focuses on darker, repressed fears. While I don’t expect anything like the existential horror of The Swimmer, I’m excited to see this classic for another Lancaster performance as a man running from his past.