Sixties Time Capsule: Point Blank (1967)

Remaining in the 60s, John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967) focused on a very different style of crime thriller.  It was, in essence, an independent movie made with the financial weight of a full studio motion picture. Rather than a classical Hollywood film, Boorman chose a more experimental style that captured the dream-like quality of the narrative. It opens with the plausible, viscous death of the protagonist, Walker (Lee Marvin), intercutting between his past and present fate. Shot compositions are rather large in scope, with deep focus–notably at the beginning–with frames filled by the cold, cement entrapment of Alcatraz and a vast ocean during the scene on the fairy. Numerous shots throughout are positioned with Walker at the center of the frame and the empty wasteland of Los Angeles static in the background. Johnny Mandell’s score compliments the psychedelic aspects of film, even during the calmest portions.  

Point Blank Trailer

An eerie, tangible attitude is consistent throughout. Whether that conclusion is drawn from the lack of dialogue from the main character, or the way in which characters are handled in a rotating manner. There’s a particular love scene between Walker and his late ex-wife’s relative, Chris (Angie Dickinson), and as they roll around, different character rotate into the frame and orchestrate the idea that these people could be anyone else. It’s true, even the supposed main villain, Mal Reese (John Vernon), is killed off near the halfway mark after the implication that the film is building towards a grand finale with his involvement. In another scene, Walker, Lynne, and Reese are all together in a car, laughing and smiling, before the frame cuts out Walker completely, implying the betrayal by his two closest companions.  

However, the most relevant aspect in this particular discussion, of the dream-like quality, is the use of a sound bridge of Walker’s footsteps as he drives to the house where he suspects his former wife and best friend to be. The footsteps are finally cut when Walker busts into the house and fires many rounds into the bed, where he suspects Reese to be. In the following scene, Walker visits with his ex-wife, Lynne (Sharon Acker), who was the only one in the house. They have a discussion, yet Lynne carries the entire conversation, answering questions without ever being asked anything. Again, the use of intercutting is employed to show how the two lovers first met but even that memory is corrupted by a group of men that are uncomfortably following the pair as they flirt with one another.  

More instances like this materialize. An important shot later in the film puts the audience in the position of Walker, as he threatens a car salesman for information inside of a moving vehicle. The POV from the inside of the car while he spins around in the parking lot emphasizes the manic nature of both the story, but also the storytelling. Walker uses Chris to catch Reese in his hotel room, and while he is enacting his revenge on the man who betrayed him the intimate music that was playing continues in the background, almost romanticizing the violence. Even though the end reveals most twists, the fate of our protagonist remains ambiguous as he fades into the black. It’s the perfect existential ending for a seemingly meaningless quest.  

Author: Jared Charles

I am the owner of The Burrow Reviews. Currently studying Film, English, Political Science, and Gender Studies.

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