The Lone Gunman


Been meaning to look at Stanley Kramer’s THE DOMINO PRINCIPLE for at least a year — I had only seen the credit sequence, as a kid, on the little b&w portable TV in my bedroom. I probably retuned to THE VAMPIRE LOVERS or something rather than watch the rest, but the opening stuck with me.

That’s some sequence! The great Wayne Fitzgerald did the credits themselves, and possibly the photomontage pre-creds too. I like the super-serious VO (Why is he English?) and the fact that his paranoid rant is sometimes a bit nonsensical or awkward.

Domino from David Cairns on Vimeo.

The movie is rather fine — it just missed being included in the Late Movies Blogathon but it’s actually an exemplary case study in late career blossoming. Rather than being time-warped (which is a quality I sometimes enjoy in older filmmakers’ work) it’s very of its moment, featuring a post-JFK shadowy conspiracy that attains almost supernatural levels of omnipotence. “Let me put it this way: if THEY decided to kill both of us, right here on this bus in front of everybody, it wouldn’t be on the news tonight.”

The film moves gracefully, taking full use of 70s cinema’s expressive range, but never straining for trendiness. Kramer simply seems to have effortlessly moved with the times. His helicopter shots and zooms are fresh and inventive rather than evincing the desperation or the default-mode filmmaking one often finds in 70s genre stuff.


Gene Hackman anchors it with his big potato face, and there’s a nice grotty support from Mickey Rooney (why does Hackman tolerate the guy’s presence?), and some vintage sneering from Richard Widmark. And there’s Eli Wallach and young Edward Albert as co-conspirators. Candice Bergen has a rather nothing role: one keeps waiting for her character to become more active: she doesn’t, and the love story doesn’t carry the wait it ought to. My favourite stuff was the crisp unfolding of the prison sequences at the start, where the plot is at its most mysterious and the characters at their least sympathetic.

14 Responses to “The Lone Gunman”

  1. Never seen that before What a great opening!

  2. Love the narrator — so fervid!

  3. Did you happen to get a count of the number of times the word They was used in a conspiratorial context? Based on the opening alone, this movie’s count was equal to whole seasons of the X-Files.

  4. Oh, they go on about “They” all through the movie as well. Needless to say, although we meet several of “their” representatives, we never really get to the top…

  5. Next to The Manchurian Candidate my fave conspiracy movie is Pakula’sThe Parallax View.

    As for Kramer (a rather underrated director,IMO) if you want to get into real weirdness try Bless the Beasts and Children and The Runner Stumbles

  6. I will! I do think he’s a more interesting filmmaker than he’s given credit for. A true mediocrity couldn’t have made anything as awful as It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. And his work as producer, from High Noon to The 5,000 Fingers of Dr T, is dear to my heart.

  7. On the Beach is a truly teriffic movie.

  8. One of my favorite Firesign Theatre lines is “Who am ‘us,’ anyway?” Perhaps that now needs a corollary: “Who is ‘they,’ anyhoo?”

    I’ll always love ON THE BEACH, in any case, for that scene when sozzled Ava Gardner tells Gregory Peck that she knows the French for ordering gloves in (now deserted) Paris. As a friend of mine, with Ehrensteinian locutions, once phrased it … “To know how to order gloves is important. To know how to order gloves at the end of the world is — fabulous!”

  9. Post-atomic Ava would never be seen dead in anything other than the latest Fallout Fashions.

  10. Wait a heckin’ mo. That’s Patrick “Protect and Survive” Allen narrating, isn’t it? I wonder which gig came first.

  11. MAYBE that’s him… the timbre is different, but maybe he can do that. A cigarette beforehand might do the trick.

  12. specterman Says:

    That’s definitely Patrick Allen of Barrett helicopter fame. Poor Leon Greene was dubbed over by him in the Devil Rides Out . Perhaps the ultimate insult to an actor, though I have to say it completely work here. Lee’s performance is so intense only Allen’s voice could share the same universe . Less forgivably though ,that wonderful tower of womanhood Valerie Leon was dubbed over by June Whitfield in Carry On Girls to much less gratifying effect.

    Oh and of course Allen was the narrator of Blackadder.

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