The Squeeze 1977 ***

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A gritty London crime drama, The Squeeze is as sleazy and tight as the title suggests, with Stacy Keach as Jim Naboth, an alcoholic ex-cop who gets involved when the wife of friend Foreman (Edward Fox) is kidnapped, with the added complication that she’s also Naboth’s wife. David Hemmings and Stephen Boyd, in his final screen role, are the kidnappers, and the feel of 70’s gangland London, notably Clapham and Battersea, is well caught, with clapped-out boozers, massage parlours and strippers to the fore. Directed by Michael Apted from a James Tucker novel, The Squeeze is a nasty relic from the past, as appetizing as an alcohol-sodden beer-mat and yet compelling in its portrayal of low-life characters; Freddie Starr provides support as Naboth’s pal and was something of a handful on set from all accounts.

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The Long Riders 1980 ***

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The stunning images of a bang-robbing gang on horseback smashing through the plate-glass windows of an Old West Street is just one of the visual high-points of Walter Hill’s overlooked Western. Co-written with Bill Bryden amongst others, The Long Riders de-mythologizes The Jesse James gang, and cleverly uses acting clans to depict the brothers. Three Carradines (David, Keith and Robert), two Quaids (Dennis and Randy), two Guests (Christopher and Nicholas) and two Keaches (James and Stacey) are the gangs, with the latter two as James and Frank James, who become outlaws as an act of revenge. It’s a shame Beau and Jess Bridges weren’t able to schedule The Long Riders in, but Western fans should make an effort; Hill’s dark, brooding epic is a classic slice of revisionism.

The Ninth Configuration 1980 ***

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Famously troubled and available in several versions, The Ninth Configuration is a powerful anti-war film set in a remote psychiatric hospital, not at all what Exorcist author Peter William Blatty was expected to create. Starting with a beautiful rendition of the song San Antone by Denny Brooks over a melancholic series of images of a snowbound castle, Blatty follows up with a stunning credits sequence featuring the voice of Scott Wilson as Billy Culshaw, an astronaut losing his grip on reality during a Cape Canaveral launch. The stir he creates within the institution makes Blatty’s film something of a companion piece to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, with which it shares a mordant black humour and anti-authority heft. A genuine attempt to put counter-cultural ideas on screen, the pivotal image of a lunar astronaut discovering a statue of Christ on the moon gives an idea of the film’s lofty philosophical ambitions.