In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_jimi_all_is_by_my_side

Jimi: All Is by My Side

What’s fascinating about “Jimi: All Is By My Side” is not only its decision to show us this particular chapter in Hendrix’s life, but also…

Thumb_boxtrolls_ver13

The Boxtrolls

"The Boxtrolls" is a beautiful example of the potential in LAIKA's stop-motion approach, and the images onscreen are tactile and layered. But, as always, it's…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Pendulum

  |  

I guess "Pendulum" qualifies as the first lawnorder movie; a vicious killer-rapist is sprung on a technicality by the Supreme Court, and then we get a 90-minute sermon against coddling criminals. "For years," sighs the kindly police chief (or was it the kindly civil rights lawyer?), "private citizens have been deprived of their rights, But now I'm afraid the pendulum has swung too far the other way."

"Pendulum," alas, doesn't swing at all. If you really analyze it, it's a fascist movie, defending strong authority figures against citizens' rights. But why analyze it? It's so badly written and indifferently directed that it degrades its subject; a few more movies like this could put lawnorder out of business for good.

The story involves a cop (George Peppard) who frets while a psychopathic killer (Robert F. Lyons) beats the rap. Then we get lots of speeches by the cop and the chief about lawnorder, and some weak rejoinders by the liberal lawyer (Richard Kiley). But then Peppard goes out of town, and while he's gone somebody murders his wife and her lover in bed.

He's the prime suspect, naturally, since the movie has already awkwardly planted a lot of clues. Example: Peppard expresses concern that the maid's stool will slip while she washes the windows; next day the cops find Peppard's footprints -- you guessed it -- under the window where the killer entered. Gangbusters!).

Peppard hires the same liberal attorney to defend him. The attorney's name is Woodrow Wilson King, a coincidence that didn't escape me. The cops chalk a four-color map on the blackboard and decide Peppard did it -- even though a car stolen a block from Peppard's home later turns up abandoned in the Pennsylvania home town of the vicious killer-rapist. Are you keeping this straight?

Well, Peppard the cop was against the wily tricks of the glib liberal lawyer, but Peppard the suspect is only too happy to have the lawyer defend him. Right? Wrong! Peppard doesn't trust the law, thinks he's being framed, escapes and solves the case himself. There's a dramatic struggle with the killer; Peppard is stabbed with a bread knife, sustaining a curious wound that crawls up and down his arm in various shots before finally establishing itself in his back.

The movie is written ineptly, and the audience giggled at a lot of awkward dialog. Not so amusing was the characterization of the Negro maid; other than that stereotyped maid who still inhabits Tom and Jerry cartoons, she's the first laws-a-mercy black maid in years.

George Peppard, a better actor than his recent roles indicate, is competent. Jean Seberg is transparent and lifeless. Only Robert F. Lyons, as the killer, stands out. His face and manner bring moments of tension into an otherwise dreary exercise.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

Why my video essay about "All that Jazz" is not on the Criterion blu-ray

Bob Fosse's masterpiece "All That Jazz" jumps back and forth through the past and the present, and through memory and...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus