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lzcutter

Bite the Bullet

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Just a reminder that Friday morning at 9:30 am EST/6:30 am PST, TCM is showing a wonderful 1970s western by Richard Brooks, *Bite the Bullet*. Stars Gene Hackman, Candice Bergen, Jan-Michael Vincent, James Coburn *AND* Ben Johnson.

 

It's a good one!

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Set those TIVOs and VCRs and don't miss *Bite the Bullet*.

Rey, this means you.

Looking forward to talking about this one!

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Hey there!

 

Got some time to post this morning here at work, since our mainframe just went down for maintenance.

 

I absolutely adore Bite the Bullet. It is one of those rare times that a movie has an intelligent script, wonderful photography, great direction (one of my fave directors, Richard Brooks) and a great cast lead by one of my all-time favorite actors, Gene Hackman.

 

I am NOT taping or recording the film. I own the VHS version and even though it is available on DVD, I am holding out for an updated DVD release (if it ever happens) with bonus features.

 

As far as this film is concerned, I kind of think of it as a companion piece to another Brooks film, 1966's, The Professionals, another one of my favorite films. Similar, but not the same.

 

On another note, I have not really been able to watch many of the films airing this month due to my work schedule and weekend activities, BUT I have been paying attention to the boards when I can.

 

Edited by FXreyman

(Rey Nowlin)

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Well, I recorded *Bite the Bullet*. I hope my recording came out because I got to watch just one part of it while it was on today and it blew me away. But of course, it had to be the part where..... well, let's just say Ben Johnson made me cry. I really wasn't expecting that to happen.

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Well good morning all!

 

I only got about four hours sleep last night ..... All my fault!

 

I hope you all don't mind, but I have some things to say about the great Bite the Bullet. And it might take a while to read, so you'd all better go to the bathroom now!

 

I decided to purchase Bite the Bullet last night from iTunes and then I decided to watch this very enjoyable film until 2:30 in the morning. As I have indicated elsewhere, I do own the vhs of this film, but they do not have vhs slots in my mac, so I can't watch it on my computer!

 

So after watching an original Star Trek episode (The Return of the Archons) I decided to see if iTunes had Bite the Bullet. And they did!

 

I have seen this film about ten times. Maybe more if I consider all the times I put it in my vcr but got interrupted and never got back to watching it.

 

I say this because watching it again early this morning just made me realize what a fine film this was. And what a shame that it got lost in all of the other releases from 1975.

 

This film has some very special moments in it.

 

*BE ADVISED SOME SPOILERS AHEAD*

 

As for the acting chops you need not look any further than Hackman, Coburn and Johnson. All three gave fine performances. Hackman as Sam Clayton the self-described animal lover, had what could have been a showy role, but instead decided to tone it down except when teaching the young kid (Vincent) a lesson about cruelty to animals and to women. So did Coburn as Luke Matthews, but I think that Brooks wanted them to be shown as more professional or even more experienced as in worldly. They two are the only ones involved in the race that were also under the command of Col. Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish American War.

 

When Clayton delivers the horse to the Parkers, Matthews is delighted to see him. Of course, they end up getting involved in a fight with Carbo and his buddies that becomes personal for Luke.

 

Clayton: "Just like old times."

Matthews: "Yeah. You start trouble and I start bleedin'."

 

Afterwards it becomes apparent that these two have a special bond with each other. And even though Clayton signs up for the race, he is not totally convinced he can win. It is not until several days later that Sam tells Luke that he is going to win this race. We are not clearly sure why Sam decides he is setting his mind on winning, maybe he feels he is just as capable a rider as all the others.

 

It could also be that he wants to prove to Jack Parker (Coleman) that he is a better man than he is. Parker is the one who fires him after delivering his champion steed several days later than expected, and it is Parker who must be convinced that Clayton could win the race after he tries to get him to quit the race and go back on his payroll.

 

And Hackman has some other wonderful lines in this film:

 

One of the best scenes is where he starts to tell Miss Jones about how he met his wife in Cuba, and his experience as a Rough Rider with Teddy. He should have won an Oscar for this scene alone.

 

Sam Clayton: "We came out of the jungle and there it was - San Juan Hill. The Spanish guns lookin' right down our throat, the sharpshooters pickin' us off and we just charged right up that hill!"

 

starts to ride off, but returns

 

Sam Clayton: "That's not the way it happened at all. It wasn't anything like it was in San Antoine where we did our trainin'. That's where I ran into Luke and a lot of other men from every other country who wanted to be Roughriders. Bakers and barbers and Congressman, cattlemen, ballplayers, farmers and porters... cowboys. No, we didn't rough ride up that hill, 'cause we didn't have any horses. We didn't charge up there, either. We crawled up there on our scared bellies. There was only one horse and one rider - that was Colonel Teddy. He went chargin' up that damn hill and they shot his glasses off. He put on another pair and they nipped him in the elbow, and he said, "Follow me!" And we did, 'cause we was too damned ashamed not to.

The people some people marry. I wasn't worth her spit."

 

Luke Matthews is a gambler at heart. He has bet everything on his chances to win. And he probably thinks he has a good chance too, until his good friend Sam Clayton enters the race.

Coburn's character comes across as someone who really cares, just like Clayton. And why not, he is not out to hurt anybody, he is out to look after himself but keep a weary eye on the others. He is sophisticated and he has world-like experiences. A man who likes to think he can enjoy the best the world has to offer.

 

Where as Clayton is just moving from job to job. That is until this race comes along.

 

Johnson had a very quiet yet effective performance as "Mister", the old Confederate who just wanted to be famous. He has several great scenes. The best being his final scene with Clayton.

 

Clayton: "No family?"

Mister: "Him"

[indicates his horse]

Mister: "Oh, you know saddle tramps. They sign on, drive the beef a thousand miles, make your mark, draw your pay and move on to the next ranch. Another roundup and another drive. Hired... fired... and move on."

Sam Clayton: "Well, it's never bothered me none."

Mister: "No, me neither when I was thirty years lighter."

 

Mister to Clayton:

"Ever prospected? Ever hit pay dirt? I've dug for gold, silver, lead, mercury. I've dug more holes than a whole regiment of gophers. I ain't never dug a decent day's wages yet."

 

Again a few seconds later, Mister to Clayton:

"God, what ain't I tried. Pony express rider, Overland Stage driver, lawman, gambler, riverman, rancher, rodeo hand, barman, spittoon man... old man. Never much to remember. Of course, there ain't much to forget, either. Nobody's got much use for an old man. I can't blame 'em much. That's why I'm going to win this here newspaper race. When I cross the finish line, I get to be a big man. Top man. A man to remember."

 

All the while as he is recounting what he has done, his eyes are looking straight ahead, as he is remembering all of these great adventures he had participated in.

 

And when he dies, he has that small smile on his face and he is looking up toward the mountains. Sort of reminded me of Joel McCrea's final in Ride the High Country.

 

Maybe Mister just wanted to enter his house justified.

 

Of the other performers, I think Jan-Michael Vincent was quite good as Carbo, the young punk who was willing to do anything to get the attention of the others. It was a thankless role for him. Everytime he started to mouth off or do something despicable, there was Clayton waiting to teach him a lesson. Eventually, Carbo sees the errors of his ways and even tries to apologize to Miss Jones (Bergen). And he even gets involved with the hunt for the escaped convicts towards the end of the movie. His was a total transformation, all due to Clayton's and Matthews' valuable lessons.

 

Ian Bannen as Sir Harry Norfolk has always been one of my favorites. He adds a bit of English class to the adventure, although like many of the others is a virgin to this new land called the American West. He like the others tries shortcuts during the race. Finally having to shoot his horse after a daredevil ride through a creek.

 

And I really like Mario Arteaga as the Mexican who is the one that really has to bite the bullet!

 

As we first find him, he is leaving his home and family to go ride and win this race. Surely, $2,000 would come in very handy for a poor Mexican family. He is befriended at the bar by Clayton and Matthews, who try to point out to a bigot what their heritages are.

 

The look on the Mexican's face as the last of his heroin pills go tumbling down a rocky formation is unforgettable. And then there is Clayton, waiting for him with an extra pill bottle.

 

Candice Bergen as Miss Jones is pretty good in this as well. Although from what I have read, she was not all that convinced that she could play this role, although I thought she was quite good as the former prostitute turned race competitor. She was as good in this as she was in the same years' release of The Wind and the Lion, starring opposite Sean Connery.

 

She also has some memorable lines:

 

Speaking with Carbo:

 

"I've been around a lot of cowhands, one way or another. A cowboy dresses from the top down. The first thing on is his hat. And he undresses from the bottom up. Last thing off... hat. Oh, and another thing - to be a cowpuncher, that don't mean you actually got to go around punching them, you know."

 

And earlier in the film she has this bit of dialogue with Rosie, her former boss:

 

"Rosie, how many times you been married?

Eleven. Ten without a preacher or license.

Well, did you love any of 'em?

Oh, all of 'em! Every one of 'em! The good and the bad. It's a shame to waste all that prime beef on a guy serving three to five in a prison. Do you keep in touch?

Oh, he's kind of a lousy letter writer.

A lousy bank robber, too."

 

Of the other supporting charachters in the film, I really liked seeing Robert Hoy. He portrays Lee Christie, the expert rider Jack Parker uses to ride his champion steed in the race.

 

Hoy if you do not remember was in the cast of the TV western The High Chaparral. He played the part Joe Butler, brother to Sam Butler (played by Sam Collier) two of the ranch hands working for "Big" John Cannon (Leif Erickson).

 

In BTB he has some memorable bits as well. He is the authoritative voice of reason that Jack Parker goes to when asking who is the best in the race so far. It is a quiet scene, one in which Lee addresses all of the riders he thinks still has a chance. And even though Parker is not convinced at all of Sam Clayton, it is Lee who tells him that Clayton could very well be the one to beat.

 

Coleman as Jack Parker is fun to watch as well. I have always enjoyed his acting abilities. Here he is a pretty serious fellow. And just to think, he is the son of J.B. Parker, the great uncredited Paul Stewart from Champion and Twelve O'Clock High.

 

Bite the Bullet was released in 1975. That was one of those watershed years of film releases.

 

Lets see, the films released that year were:

 

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother

Barry Lyndon

The Day of the Locust

Dog Day Afternoon

The Drowniing Pool

Farewell, My Lovely

The Fortune

Give 'em Hell, Harry!

The Great Waldo Pepper

Jaws

The Man Who Would Be King

The Man in the Glass Booth

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Nashville

Night Moves

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

The Other Side of the Mountain

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Shampoo

The Stepford Wives

The Sunshine Boys

Three Days of the Condor

Tommy

The Wind and the Lion

 

And the Oscar nominations for that year that Bite the Bullet could have been and in two cases was nominated in were:

 

Best Picture:

Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick, producer

Dog Day Afternoon, Martin Bregman and Martin Elfand, producers

Jaws, Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown, producers

Nashville, Robert Altman, producer

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas, producers

 

Bite the Bullet was NOT a strong enough contender for Best Picture that year, solely based on these other nominees. Actually IMHO the only Best Picture nominee NOT worth consideration is Barry Lyndon. The Man Who Would Be King is the one picture that should have received a nomination in this category.

 

Best Actor

Walter Matthau, The Sunshine Boys

Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon

Maximilian Schell, The Man in the Glass Booth

James Whitmore, Give 'em Hell, Harry!

 

Now here was a chance for the Academy to honor Hackman with a nomination. Although he could have easily been picked for his other 1975 film, Night Moves. But Bite the Bullet was a stronger acting challenge for him, and he has often said that the film's 64 day shooting schedule was the toughest he had ever participated in. James Coburn could have also been nominated in this category for his fine performance as Luke Matthews.

 

Best Actress

Isabelle Adjani, The Story of Adele H.

Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Glenda Jackson, Hedda

Carol Kane, Hester Street

Ann-Margret, Tommy

 

Bergen, could have been nominated in this category. But in reality even though she gets shared top billing with Hackman, she was really just starting out in movies. And no one was going to beat Louise Fletcher that year.

 

Actor in a Supporting Role

George Burns, The Sunshine Boys

Brad Dourif, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Burgess Meredith, The Day of the Locust

Chris Sarandon, Dog Day Afternoon

Jack Warden, Shampoo

 

Again, the Academy chose to ignore all of the fine supporting actors in Bite the Bullet. I mean, really, why wasn't Ben Johnson nominated. Sure his role was small, but he sure did have some memorable moments. Mario Arteaga was very good also as the Mexican contestant.

 

Directing

Robert Altman, Nashville

Federico Fellini, Amarcord

Milos Forman, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Stanley Kubrick, Barry Lyndon

Sidney Lumet, Dog Day Afternoon

 

Again, I think the Academy may have goofed here as well. Kubrick and Fellini were fine directors, but they did not deserve noms that year. Easily, Spielberg should have been nominated for Jaws, and Brooks should have been too for BTB.

 

Writing

Original Screenplay:

Ted Allan, Lies My Father Told Me

Federico Fellini and Tonino Guerra, Amarcord

Claude Lelouch and Pierre Uytterhoeven, And Now My Love

Frank Pierson, Dog Day Afternoon

Robert Towne and Warren Beatty, Shampoo

 

The Academy missed an opportunity to nominate Brooks here. His original screenplay perfectly captures the time period (roughly 1906) and the goings on of the wild west that was soon to disappear. He has said that he based his story on actual Horse endurance races that had occurred between the 1880's and the early 1900's. One in particular was a race between some small place in Wyoming and Denver. This is the race he chose to depict in this film.

 

Cinematography

John Alcott, Barry Lyndon

Conrad Hall, The Day of the Locust

James Wong Howe, Funny Lady

Robert Surtees, The Hindenburg

Haskell Wexler and Bill Butler, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

 

Harry Stradling, Jr. was one of the finest cinematographers working at the time. Howe was surely nominated because of his name as was Surtees. Thus Stradling should have been nominated for his beautiful exterior shots of Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. As some would know, shooting outdoors without controlled light is very difficult.

 

Sound

Robert L. Hoyt, Roger Heman, Earl Madery and John Carter, Jaws

Leonard Peterson, John A. Bolger, Jr., John Mack and Don K. Sharpless, The Hindenburg

Arthur Piantadosi, Les Fresholtz, Richard Tyler and Al Overton, Jr., Bite the Bullet

Richard Portman, Don MacDougall, Curly Thirlwell and Jack Solomon, Funny Lady

Harry W. Tetrick, Aaron Rochin, William McCaughey and Roy Charman, The Wind and the Lion

 

I have no clue why BTB was nominated in this category. I guess all of the sounds of nature and that train came into play. BTB should have been nominated in Cinematography instead.

 

Original Score

Gerald Fried, Birds Do It, Bees Do It

Jerry Goldsmith, The Wind and the Lion

Jack Nitzsche, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Alex North, Bite the Bullet

John Williams, Jaws

 

Great score by North, but he was eclipsed that year by John Williams in Jaws. Although I think Goldsmith was even better with The Wind and the Lion.

 

All in all one of my all-time favorite films. A film to be savored.

 

Message edited by Fxreyman

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Hey, Rey!

 

You and I must have been on the same wavelength last night, because I did the same thing.... except I watched it on TV instead of a computer. I couldn't sleep, and so at about 1:00 I got up and turned on my dvdr and started watching the beginning of Bite the Bullet.

 

I was struck by how each of the characters fulfilled a certain role - Hackman was the heart of the movie, and the conscience. Coburn was just left of center, a little comic, plus he was a kind of greek chorus, commenting on the action, allowing us to understand Hackman better by drawing him out in conversation (otherwise Hackman would have barely spoken throughout the film). Ben Johnson really pointed up the wasteful, all for oneself ignorance of the younger group (represented by Jan Michael Vincent), and also the greed and hypocrisy of promoters.....it was painful for me to watch him go up and talk to people throughout this movie, because not one soul paid any attention to him. He seemed so used to it. That broke my heart.

 

Because I watched the film backwards, I was really struck by the scene at the beginning when Hackman finds the abused horse wired to the glue factory truck. First of all, it was awful to watch that horse in agony, knowing that someone purposefully left him there. However, it was a perfect twin to the scene with Ben Johnson, when Hackman goes out in the night to find him, broken and on his last legs. In the first scene, Hackman rescues the young colt, but has to make due with easing the old horse's misery, just as in the later part f the movie, he will make Ben comfortable, in order that he may die with a little dignity. Rey, Johnson's skyward look in that last moment was what made me cry. I really didn't think he was going to die. It caught me completely off guard.

 

Sorry to be so Ben Johnson-centric, but on this first viewing, that is what I got the most out of. He is my favorite actor.

 

James Coburn was just the way I like him, wry and so easy with a line that I will have to go back to see if I can catch some of what he said at another time.... he tosses away great lines left and right, with that deep, sonorous voice, and it is just marvelous. In the middle of the night, though, with the sound down low, I missed at least half of them. :)

 

Hackman is one of those actors that I never can figure out. He is very organic. The emotion just comes out of him quietly and there is no strain. It's funny, but the only other actor I can compare him to is Alec Guinness, who also seems to just be.... never straining for an effect.

 

And it was great to see Paul Stewart! I couldn't believe my eyes when he showed up. .

 

This was a real gem and I thank you, Rey and Lynn, for cluing me in on it quite some time ago. And Lynn, thanks so much for starting this thread, I hope more people discover this one.

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> {quote:title=fxreyman wrote:}{quote}

> I decided to purchase Bite the Bullet last night from iTunes and then I decided to watch this very enjoyable film until 2:30 in the morning. As I have indicated elsewhere, I do own the vhs of this film, but they do not have vhs slots in my mac, so I can't watch it on my computer!

 

I don't suppose you'd remember if the iTunes version of the movie is in the original aspect ratio, or if it is a pan-and-scan version?

 

EDIT - Never mind, I just took a look at the iTunes store and see that it's advertised as a widescreen version. Still, not sure how many TCM viewers would pay $10 for a movie that TCM is already showing.

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EDIT - Never mind, I just took a look at the iTunes store and see that it's advertised as a widescreen version. Still, not sure how many TCM viewers would pay $10 for a movie that TCM is already showing.

 

Well, if regular TCM viewers like most of the posters on here are like, I would assume that many WOULD purchase the movie either online or from a store so that they can watch it at any time.

 

Of course the opposite is also true. Many probably taped conventionally using a vhs or they taped via dvd-r.

 

It does not really matter. Anyone can do whatever they like to do.

 

Right now in my life I like to watch movies and tv programs on my mac. I do not have the money to purchase a wide screen LCD nor do I have the inclination to purchase a blu-ray at this time.

 

I am also not so concerned with sound quality or picture quality. Since I work my a _ _ off I really do not have the time to do what most other people do for granted.

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Believe it or not, for many movies like the ones that TCM shows, I'm beginning to see the upside of watching on a computer monitor or laptop. Not every movie needs to be watched in a big HDTV and played on a blu-ray player to be enjoyable. Yes, there are some titles that lend themselves particularly well to the format, but not all.

 

It's like 5.1 sound - sure, it's nice, but I'd rather watch a good classic film in mono sound than a bad new release with great 5.1 sound.

 

But when it comes to Bite the Bullet, I'll agree it would be nice to see Columbia issue a nice DVD set with a few extras, if possible.

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