random moments in film criticism #1

The Getaway is an utter bore.  A failure as drama, as film, as entertainment.  It is morally corrupt, artistically arid, conceptually outdated and in sum as thoroughly unredeemable a piece of shit as has been released this year, and the horror and wonder of it, is that it came from such massive talents.”

The above quote is from the always outspoken Harlan Ellison, writing in the January 19, 1973 edition of The Staff about Sam Peckinpah’s 1972 crime movie The Getaway, starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw.  The review is collected in the book Harlan Ellison’s Watching.  As good a quote as any to inaugurate this new blog feature.

Below is a scene from the movie, giving you a little taste of what Bloody Sam did best.  If you haven’t seen it before and plan to, you may want to back off.  Plot lines are resolved and not everyone makes it out alive.  Good scene.


I think you could argue that Ellison is the godfather of the kind of belligerent, smartypants writing that blankets the internet nowadays.  The sort of hostile over-the-top typing that is frequently mistaken for having an opinion.  The big difference is that Ellison could write and he was informed about his opinions.  He harangued the reader, but it came loaded with just as much brains as brawn.  Most of the time.    


4 comments on “random moments in film criticism #1

  1. mikester46 says:

    Ellison’s wrong! “The Getaway” still works on a number of different levels. As an action film, a character study and a love story.
    Yes it’s violent and at times, nasty but Mc Queen in black suit, shooting up a Mexican fleabag hotel remains as cool as ever!

    • derek says:

      I don’t dislike The Getaway at all. Not my favorite Peckinpah by any means, but it’s a solid crime movie. And I agree, very few actors can do “cool” as well as McQueen in his prime. The Ellison quote was really a random paragraph that I came across. His reviews are quite good even when I disagree with him, mostly because he’s so unashamedly emotional. There’s no middle ground with him and I like that. Everyone seemingly screams on the internet, in chat rooms, on message boards, on Facebook, etc., that what Ellison once excelled at seems pallid now. He unconsciously birthed many hysterical monsters… and those monsters have no idea who their real father is.

  2. Hi Derek! I’m a write and I really love your blog and all your film interests…very intriguing. I only just came across the film “The Possession” with Neill/Adjani and wow…disturbing and brilliant. I am also a huge fan on movies of the occult, and you’ve listed so many that I haven’t seen, along with some absolute favorites of mine (loved your ‘Texas Chainsaw’ article).

    In any case, thanks for posting and thanks for the rec’s! Are you on tumblr?

    Also, have you seen ‘Begotten?’ I’m assuming yes. That’s a little interesting.

    • derek says:

      Hey Tara! Ah, thanks for the kind words. You’ve made me want to blog more. POSSESSION is really one of my favorites. It’s just extraordinary and weird and hypnotic. Can’t get enough. And yes, I’ve seen BEGOTTEN. That really is something. It’s an unholy artifact preserved on antique VHS. Yes, I’m on Tumblr… and I’ve been slack in listing that here. But you can find me at http://cockeyedcaravan.tumblr.com/

      I might try and do another horror movie post… since we’re coming into the Halloween season.

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