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Friday, 13 June 2014

Shoot (1976)

And so another one bites the dust! I always experience a frisson of pleasure when I succeed in removing yet another film from my 'must see one of these days' list. Again I have YouTube to thank for providing the copy I watched, since it seems to be something of a moot point as to whether the film has ever been released for rental or sale. Not surprising that its availability has been limited, since this Canadian movie was generally slammed by the critics on its release and shunned by the public.

It gained its place on my little list from its inclusion in Danny Peary's invaluable "Guide for the Film Fanatic" published in 1986 -- and my copy of that paperback is now literally falling apart. 'Bite the dust' is actually a good intro for this film insofar as it was intended to be a controversial anti-gun movie, a kick in the pants to National Rifle Association die-hards. Starring the likeable actor Cliff Robertson, with some able support from Ernest Borgnine and Henry Silva, they play weekend hunting buddies, ex-combat soldiers who are bored with the weekday routine of work, family, and civilian respectability. They only begin to feel 'alive' again with a rifle clutched in their clammy little hands.

One day with nary an animal to kill in sight, they stand bored in the snowy landscape on one side of a frozen river. Across the river stand another group of hunters, apparently equally bored, until one of them decides to take a pot-shot at Robertson's crew. The shot only grazes one of his buddies, but Silva immediately returns fire killing one of the other hunting party. They have managed to create an instant Enemy (with a capital E) and now need to prepare for what they perceive as the inevitable next encounter. No one reports the incident to the police, but Robertson immediately begins recruiting and training other townsfolk, who thrill to running about in the woods dressed as soldiers.

This central portion of the movie is frankly as dull as ditch-water or proverbially watching paint dry, since we have no way of knowing whether the desired combat and confrontation will ever occur, and the training seems to go on endlessly. However, one day during their manoeuvres, they discover to their horror that their 'enemy' is even better prepared than they. It's a massacre in the making! The moral, if there is one, is how can some supposedly intelligent men be so stupid that they can not curb their own madness in time to prevent disaster.

Had the film been rather better made or scripted, it might have become something of a cult classic, a timely warning against the availability and enjoyment of guns. As it is, it remains something of an obscurity to 'bite the dust' for pppatty's pleasure...
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