Richard Fleischer


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Figlio d'arte, Richard Fleischer si formo' con il documentario, vincendo l'oscar per Design For death (1947).

Follow Me Quietly (1949) a short thriller

A female reporter, Ann, is looking for a police detective, Harry, who is investigating the case of a serial strangler who calls himself "The Judge". Harry is hostile and even insults her, even if they have never met before. Harry is called urgently for another murder and comments that the maniac only strikes on rainy nights. The new victim is a journalist, who is still alive and, before dying, dictates the article about his own murder. Ann followed the detective and begs him for a scoop, but he despises her morbid curiosity that is not useful to catch the criminal. She shows up later at his apartment and is shocked to see how attractive Harry is in plain clothes. He toys with her and eventually signs a paper authorizing her to cover the story. Harry does not know the face of the killer but has so many clues that is able to design a dummy and have it built. Ann would like to publish the story but Harry gets mad at her: the dummy is for the police only to know. One night, noticing that it started raining, Harry starts talking to the dummy, that is sitting on a chair. After all the police officers exit the room, the dummy gets up: it is not a dummy, but a real human. He grabs the dummy, puts it on the chair and leaves the room. Since it is a rainy night, the police are on maximum alert. Ann's persistence eventually pays off: when they call that a new body showed up, Harry takes her with him. This time they find a magazine, and Ann gives Harry an important clue: it could only have been bought at a second-hand store. One of the store owners recognizes the dummy. A waitress then recognizes the dummy as one of her restaurant's customers, Charlie. His landlord describes him as a regular guy. They wait for him, but he senses that something is wrong and runs. Harry chases him into a factory and arrests him. But Charlie seems afraid of some liquid spilling from the ceiling and, panicking, he almost frees himself. Instead, he falls to his death. The Clay Pigeon (1949)

Armored Car Robbery (1950) was a brief detective movie that sped through a typical heist plot while emphasizing the high-tech methods of the police.

Dave is a legendary thief who has pulled robberies that sounded impossible, the last one being investigated by a brilliant detective, Cordell. He has a new plan to rob an armored car. He is in cahoots with Benny and two of Benny's friends. Benny is a failed gigolo who is despised by his wife, cabaret entertainer Yvonne, who also happens to be Dave's lover. The heist goes wrong because Dave and his partner arrive in time. In the shoot out, Benny is wounded and Dave's partner is killed. Dave now has a personal reason to track down the robbers. The gangsters drive away, chased by the police, with the money and a dying Benny. They stop at Dave's motel, where Dave is determined to dump Benny. Benny tries to stop them but Dave kills him. Cordell's police officers corner the three and kill one more. The other two split: Dave goes to tell Yvonne the good news (that she is a widow and that he has the money). The other surviving gangster makes the mistake of going to a Yvonne show while the police is warching her. Cordell arrests him and makes him talk. Now the police know the name of the man they are looking for: Dave. Cordell sends one of his man incognito to Yvonne. He pretends to be an accomplice who needs to find Dave. She pretends to put him in touch but instead helps Dave to take me hostage. When Dave realizes that the cop is transmitting their movements to the police, Dave shoots him. Dave and Yvonne take a cab to the airport, but the cop is still alive and alerts Cordell, who gets to the airport in time to stop their plane. Dave jumps off the plane and starts running on the runway only to be killed by a landing plane.

Ad affermarlo fu Narrow Margin (1952), un thriller avvincente, destinato a diventare un classico della suspense moderna. The soundtrack alone is a masterpiece of suspense.

Two police officers, Walter and his partner, get off the train and take a taxi to an unprepossessing house. They are the escort that has to take an important witness, the widow of a mobster, to the city where the trial is going to take place. The widow is a real bitch. While she is walking down the stairs someone tries to shoot her, but instead kills Walter's partner. Walter does not waste a second to mourn his partner. He hurries the woman into a taxi and then into the train. Walter does not like the job, she doesn't like the situation. They are both tense. They have to share the same cabin because in theory she is not there. The gangsters are on the train and Walter has already identified one. Luckily when this gangster inspects their cabin, she is out. The other one comes to visit Walter and offers him money. During the cat and mouse chase on the train, Walter meets an attractive woman who is puzzled by his absent-minded behavior (he is keeping an eye on the gangster while he talks to her), a nice fat man (who always blocks his way in the narrow corridors) and a lively child (who sees his gun and wants to tell everybody). It turns out the child is the son of the attractive woman, Ann. The fat man, Sam, who only has a berth, would like to purchase the more comfortable compartment that is empty because Walter's partner did not board the train, and is upset that Walter would refuse. One of the gangsters is eyeing Ann, having seen her twice in the company of Walter and maybe suspecting she might be the widow whom he has to silence. The train makes a lengthy stop and Walter takes the opportunity to call his police station and ask for help, When Walter sees one of the gangsters follow Ann, he decides to arrest him. After a fight, he succeeds. The fat man turns out to be a railway agent who offers to take care of the gangster, but is soon put out of business by another gangster who just boarded the train. At this point Walter feels that he has to tell Ann the truth because she is in danger, having been mistaken for the widow. While he is chatting with Ann, the gangsters enter his compartment and kill the widow. In the meantime Walter is telling Ann his truth (that he is an undercover agent protecting a mobster's widow) and Ann tells him her truth: that she is the real widow. The woman whom Walter has been escorting is a decoy, a police woman. Walter realizes that his superiors were testing his loyalty: had he accepted the bribe that the gangsters offered him, the fake widow would have turned him in. The gangsters too have realized whom they really killed because they found her police badge. One of the gangsters breaks into Ann's compartment and threatens to kill her. Walter manages to shoot him by looking at his reflection in the window of a train parked on the next tracks. They have arrived and Ann is escorted by other agents to the trial.

Per anni fu unn regista tuttofare al servizio del produttore Kramer. Nel 1954 diresse per Disney 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea che lo rese famoso. Grazie al successo pote' dirigere alcuni film di carattere.

Violent Saturday (1955) e` un nero psicologico ambientato in una cittadina della provincia.

Tre criminali seminano il terrore e rapinano la banca capitanati dal crudele Marvin; la brava gente del paese e' in realta' un nido di vipere e l'unico che attacca i banditi e' un timido. Il racconto e' truculento, sotto l'influsso di Faulkner.

The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing (1955) e` un melodramma d'atmosfera morbosa.

Joan Collins rifiuta un miliardario per un architetto; quando questi la lascia, lei accetta il ricco, che uccide il giovane per gelosia. Lei lo aiuta al processo, ma poi rimane sola.

Bandido (1956)

Between Heaven And Hell (1956)

A nobilitare Compulsion (1959) e` il virtuosismo tecnico.

Welles e' un avvocato che riesce a salvare dalla sedia elettrica due giovani che, per fare i bulli, hanno commesso un delitto inutile uccidendo una donna.

These Thousand Hills (1959) e` un western psicologico in cui un umile fattore si da' alla politica, diventa ingrato e arrogante, ma poi si pente.

Drama In The Mirror (1960.)

Barabba (1962) e` la storia di Barabba che dopo essere stato liberato da Pilato diventa cristiano, vaga in diversi paesi e infine viene crocifisso come Gesu'. Fu un kolossal biblico di De Laurentiis di grande risonanza.

Fleischer diventa un regista corrivo al servizio dei produttori.

Fantastic Voyage (1966) lo introdusse alla fantascienza.

Un'equipe di medici a bordo di un sottomarino miniaturizzato dentro il corpo di un uomo morente; hanno solo un'ora prima di tornare alle proporzioni normali e ce la fanno.

Doctor Dolittle (1967) e' uno scienziato che riesce a parlare con gli animali, altro kolossal per ragazzi.

La rinascita di Fleischer avviene con Boston Strangler (1968), that used multiple screens to create tension.

Un maniaco sessuale (realmente esistito) che uccide donne anziane e sole; un poliziotto scopre l'omicida ma non ha prove. Scopre che si tratta di uno schizoide, normalmente persona onesta e sensibile e , aiutato da uno psichiatra, riesce a mostrargli la sua seconda personalita', ma cio' lo fa impazzire. Dr, Jekyll in versione psicoanalitica; virtuosismo tecnico: lo schermo e' condiviso da tre punti di vista diversi (strangolatore, vittima, osservatore): dal terrore alla pieta', come in M; solitudine nella metropoli.

The Strangler Of Rellington Place (1971)

Attenborough e' un maniaco (realmente esistito), rispettabile poliziotto, che uccide donne a caso e le seppellisce nel suo giardino; un innocente viene processato e giustiziato (grazie anche alla testimonianza dell'omicida), ma alla fine il vero colpevole viene catturato.

Tora Tora Tora (1970) e` un kolossal bellico che vede Pearl Arbour dalla parte dei giapponesi e mostra gli americani come degli imbecilli.

Last Run (1971) is a melancholy gangster movie that focuses on the twilight of an aging professional.

A middle-aged man races by himself along the coast, as if to prove his driving skills. Harry lives in a fishermen's village in Spain, and has a good rapport with the natives. His son is buried in a graveyard and he visits a prostitute, whom he entrusts with an envelop. He used to be a gateway driver. He walks into a church and talks to God about his pointless life. He has actually decided to work again for the mob. A simulated accident helps a convict escape from a police van. Harry is waiting for him: his job is to take the fugitive across the border. The fugitive makes fun of the old driver, despite the fact that Harry teaches him a lesson the very first night, and despite the fact that his girlfriend Claudie respects the calm experienced man who can solve dangerous situations without panicking. When they reach the destination, it turns out that the recipients have the order to liquidate the fugitive. Harry saves him and her. But the fugitive is hardly grateful: when Harry asks him questions to find out why someone wants to kill him, the kid sends him to hell. The girl, wisely, talks him into making peace, because Harry has a boat which could help them. But she's actually in love with the middle-aged man, and one night, while her boyfriend is sleeping, she moves into Harry's bed. They resume the trip together and soon they are tailed by the gangsters. It takes all of Harry's driving skills to lose the followers up the mountains. But then the car breaks down, and the kid's shooting skills prove equally vital. They resume the trip. Harry asks to stop half an hour to take a nap, and lies down against a tree. The kid makes love to his very unexcited girlfriend. When Harry wakes up, the girl tells him she has chosen him. Harry calls his friend the prostitute and asks her to get the boat ready. Harry goes to pick up his money from the prostitute, while the kids wait at the graveyard. But the gangsters are waiting for him, and he barely gets away wounded. The kids rush to the beach, where the boat is. Harry gets there limping, just in time to save them from the last ambush.

Ancora piu' efficaci i thrillers successivi, attraverso i quali Fleischer matura una tecnica espressiva al tempo stesso subdola, rivoluzionaria e spettacolare:

See No Evil/ Blind Terror (1971)

Mia Farrow e' una ragazza cieca e orfana innocentemente infantile; mentre e' fuori con il fidanzato, qualcuno trucida la famiglia degli zii che l'ha adottata. Quando torna a casa, Farrow pensa che stiano dormendo tutti; solo il giorno dopo si rende conto che la casa e'piena di cadaveri (entra nella vasca dove giace lo zio). Un braccialetto e' l'unica traccia lasciata dall'assassino; l'assassino viene a riprenderselo e poi inizia una lunga caccia alla sopravvissuta cieca e inerme che invano grida aiuto nel bosco, che si conclude con la sua morte. La suspense e' dovuta a due fattori, abilmente giocati da Fleischer:1) Farrow e' impotente a difendersi ed e' l'epitome dell'innocenza e della sfortuna; 2)lo spettatore e' cieco come lei, perche' Fleischer non gli fa vedere la faccia dell'assassino, e si immedesima pertanto nel suo terrore.

New Centurions (1972)

In una Los Angeles anarchica e violenta, il lavoro di alcune pattuglie stradali della polizia. L'anziano idealista e maestro Scott, che sta per andare in pensione; l'ex-teppista messicano; il giovane studente sposato con figlia che fa il poliziotto per necessita' etc.. Spaccato dei quartieri malfamati. Abbandonato dalla moglie, il giovane si da' all'alcool; quando si sta ricostruendo una vita con una negra, viene ucciso da un vecchi pazzo. L'anziano va in pensione dopo una vita di pattuglia e si suicida per la solitudina. Un affresco delle miserie morali e materiali dei difensori della legge, eroici e malinconici martiri della violenza moderna.

Spikes Gang (1973)

Lee Marvin e' un truce bandito, egoista e amorale, che seduce tre contadinotti e li trascina sulla strada del crimine; ignobile e perverso me fiero e coraggioso, ha una sua demenziale filosofia di vita: li conduce al massacro, ma il ragazzo sopravvissuto lo uccide.

E finalmente giunge al capolavoro con Soylent Green (1973), un film di fantascienza profetico e minaccioso, stile figurativo-apocalittico.

Una rapida sequenza di fotografie descrive la storia dell'America dai pionieri ai computer; New York 2022: 40 milioni di abitanti, una massa di miserabili che si nutre di soylent e si accalca in miserabili stamberhe; allarme, un altoparlante annuncia il coprifuoco. A. Robinson e' un vecchio, che adesso lavora alla polizia, vissuto nei tempi in cui il clima era normale, mentre adesso vige un'estate torrida permanente. Il giovane che vive con lui (Heston) esce di casa per andare a fare il turno di notte. Fuori la gente vive accalcata nelle auto, sulle scale, in n'atmosfera verde.
Una ricca ereditiera vive nel lusso sfrenato e puo' perfino permettersi di comperare del manzo dal macellaio; in casa di suo marito penetra un giovane armato di sbarra di ferro, mandato da qualcuno che ha deciso di sopprimerlo; il condannato accetta l'esecuzione come necessaria. Incaricato dell'inchiesta e' il giovane poliziotto-detective Heston, che pero' e' molto piu' preso ad approfittare dei servizi di quella casa che non a scoprire il colpevole. D'altronde i poliziotti sono dei poveri diavoli che si arrangiano con pochi scrupoli.
Rientra a casa camminando fra i corpi distesi sulle scale; fa vedere al vecchio il bottino: carta, matite, saponette, due libri, whiskey, verdure e carne. Il vecchio piange di gioia.

Il giorno dopo al comando di polizia fa il suo resoconto al capo, un negro altrettanto corrotto e cinico. Il detective pedina la guardia del corpo; il vecchio e' "l'uomo libero" del detective, gli fornisce le informazioni per l'inchiesta. Dal vecchio scopre che il caso e' complicato e che c'e' di mezzo il governatore in persona. Infatti nell'ufficio del suo capo c'e' il mandante dell'omicidio.
Il detective va a trovare la vedova: l'appartamento e' pieno di stupende ragazze dai modi ambigui, molto sofisticate e un po' intontite, troppo impalpabili, eleganti, fastidiosamente belle e di classe. La interroga sulle abitudini del marito defunto ?? piangeva e andava in chiesa ???Il padrone del palazzo maltratta le ragazze che sono sue dipendenti, specie di prostitute-manichino-robot-piagnucolone, che lui sfrutta; anche la vedova e' fragile, insicura e sola, aspetta con rassegnazione il prossimo inquilino che la s? Per non restare sola lo convince a fare un bagno caldo.
Va in chiesa a interrogare il sacerdote negro che ha parlato con il morto; la chiesa e' adibita a ricovero dei poveri. Il prete e' distrutto dalla verita' confessatagli dal morto.
Il capo negro decide pero' di chiudere il caso; il detective rifiuta.
Il mandante e' a colloquio con il governatore?
La guardia del corpo va a confessarsi dal prete e lo ammazza.
Code al mercato per pochi grammi di cibo industriale razionato. Quando il cibo finisce scoppia la sommossa, repressa dalle spalatrici che caricano uomini a palate. Un uomo spara nella folla per uccidere il detective, ma viene schiacciato da una spalatrice.
Va a casa della guardia del corpo per farlo parlare. Pesta lui e la sua ragazza, ma non ottiene nulla; poi torna a trovare la vedova.

Il vecchio in biblioteca scopre che il morto e' stato giustiziato dai padroni della ditta che ha il monopolio del cibo.
La vedova riceve il nuovo inquilino.
Il vecchio (e' un ebreo) va al tempio a farsi uccidere secondo una cerimonia che riporta alla mente le bellezze della natura. In punto di morte lo supplica di trovare le prove dell'omicidio.
I cadaveri vengono caricati nei camion della spazzatura. Il detective si aggrappa a quello su cui hanno gettato il corpo del vecchio. Tutti i camion vanno a depositare il loro carico in uno stabilimento di "eliminazione" dei rifiuti, ma in realta' vengono usati dalla Soylent per produrre il cibo.
Due uomini l'aspettano davanti a casa: sparatoria e fuga; la guardia del corpo lo colpisce, lo bracca nella chiesa stipata di umanita' dormiente. Zuffa, panico, gente uccisa per sbaglio. Arriva il capo negro quando la guardia del corpo cade accoltellata. Lo prega di dire la verita', si mette a urlare alla gente che bisogna fermarli mentre lo portano via in barella.

Spettacolo desolante: miseria diffusa, polizia corrotta, industriali senza scrupoli, l'eroe e' un emarginato asociale.

Mr Majestic (1974), written by Elmore Leonard, is a far less original gangster film with a far more predictable ending.

In a poor agricultural town, a Vietnam veteran, Majestik, who retired to run a farm hires a group of Mexicans, led by beautiful Nancy, to pick his melons. When he reaches his farm, he finds a young thug who wants him to hire his crew of pickers. Majestik refuses and the other one grabs a gun. Majestik easily disarms him and humiliates in front of everybody. The Mexicans start working, but a few hours later the police come to arrest him: the thug sued him. The police shows no compassion for his case (if he doesn't pick the melons in time, he is ruined) and throws him in jail. In jail he meets and confronts hitman Frank, a dangerous criminal who has become a celebrity. As the convicts are being transported to another prison, Frank's gangsters attack the van and engage the police in a gigantic shoot-out. Majestik takes advantage of the chaos to steal the van and kidnap Frank. He then asks the police to drop the charges against him, Majestik, as the ransom to get Frank back. Frank has money and is willing to pay a huge sum, but Majestik only wants to get back to his melons. The police accept Majestik's deal, but Majestik overestimates himself and Frank manages to escape, helped by his girlfriend. Majestik, an honest man, turns himself in to the police. Frank is free, but now is determined to take his revenge. Frank's gangsters convince the man who sued Majestik to drop the charges, so Majestik gets released and Frank has a chance to kill him. Majestik is happy to be released, and the police is happy too: Majestik is bait that can help them get Frank. Majestik, back to his melons, has the same problem to solve: nobody wants to work for him because the young thug has threatened everybody. Worse: the thug now works for Frank. Majestik and Nancy's Mexicans pick the melons. The night that Majestik and Nancy go to town to celebrate, Frank takes his first revenge by kicking out all the Mexicans and damaging all the melons with machine-gun fire. Majestik is ready to give up, but Nancy convinces him to fight on. They basically barricade themselves in the farm, waiting for Frank to make his move. Then they run, chased by three cars full of gangsters. Majestik uses shooting and driving skills, and brains, to get rid of two of the cars and to trap Frank's car in hostile territory (basically, it's a western movie played with cars instead of horses). And turns the tables on them: Frank and the surviving gangsters run away, chased by Majestik and Nancy, and barricade themselves in a cottage. By the time the police arrive, Majestik has already killed all the gangsters except the young thug. Too many scenes are pathetically stereotyped.

Mandingo (1975) e` un kolossal storico.

Una famiglia sudista dell'ottocento acquista uno schiavo negro che causera' la rovina catastrofica della famiglia e degli schiavi; sesso, violenza ed effettismo gratuiti.

Ashanti (1979)

Una giovane africana viene rapita al marito per essere venduta ad uno sceicco, ma il marito mette insieme un gruppo di avventurieri che riesce a liberarla.

Dai fumetti trae Conan the Destroyer (1984) e Red Sonya (1985) ambientati in una preistoria cavalleresca e magica sono il punto terminale del suo squallido mestiere.

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