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  99 and 44/100% Dead There's A Harris On It
Year: 1974
Director: John Frankenheimer
Stars: Richard Harris, Edmond O'Brien, Bradford Dillman, Ann Turkel, Constance Ford, Zooey Hall, Kathrine Baumann, Janice Heiden, Max Kleven, Karl Lucas, Tony Brubaker, Jerry Summers, Roy Jenson, Chuck Connors, Tom Amfinsen, Bennie E. Dobbins, Chuck Roberson
Genre: Action, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: There is a gang war going on in this city, and it has led the number of people dumped into the sea wearing concrete boots to rise considerably, in fact there's a whole population of them nibbled by the fish amidst various odds and ends of the gangster profession - abandoned getaway cars, roulette tables, empty safes, that sort of thing. As one of the mob leaders, Uncle Frank (Edmond O'Brien), sees his grip on the business begin to slip and his rival Big Eddie (Bradford Dillman) grow in power, there's only one choice left for him: call Harry Crown (Richard Harris).

Screenwriter Robert Dillon had an interesting, if not always successful artistically or financially, career as the scribe behind some very varied movies, but it is perhaps his gangster flicks of the seventies he will be best recalled for. His script for French Connection II did well enough, but for a more cult angle you had to turn to the two other efforts he had produced around the same time. One was Michael Ritchie's much-messed around with Prime Cut, which remained a very odd entry into the genre, and the other was the thriller he wrote for director John Frankenheimer, which was this, 99 and 44/100% Dead, which had a similar tone.

With a title spoofing the proud boast of a then-well known soap commercial, you may be wondering what that had to do with Richard Harris blowing bad guys away with his handgun, and after the film was over you may still be wondering. In a defiantly eccentric storyline, his character is brought in to call an end to the gang warfare, as apparently the police will do nothing: actually all we see of the law is a parade in one scene, otherwise the coppers are conspicuous by their absence. Harris looks as if he knows what is going on, and that self-confidence is a boon to a film that had a curiously spaced out air, where nothing quite connects.

On the surface this would appear to be your basic gangland suspense and action piece, and certainly all the conventions of the style in this decade were present, but there was a bullheaded awkwardness towards heading as straightforwardly as other filmmakers might have more wisely conducted their affairs that is obviously the stuff of cult movies. Once Harry shows up in town, he gets into various scrapes, yet all of these would have some quirk about them to throw the audience off the trail of the movie they might have been expecting. The opening titles were a strong hint at the unreality to come, a Roy Lichtenstein-aping clamour of comic book frames accompanied by Henry Mancini's driving music.

So Harry would take part in the bomb defusing scene of many a thriller - Harris had already done one of those in Juggernaut - but here it takes place in the schoolroom of his girlfriend Buffy (Ann Turkel, soon to be the star's wife), and the device is wired up to a beautiful woman who happens to be the love of his new partner in crime. Even in the small details there were bizarre aspects, such as the Thomas Pynchon-esque alligators in the sewers, or the fact that main heavy Chuck Connors is a sexual sadist who uses his mechanical hand to mete out violence; he's called Claw, of course, and lost his appendage when Harry cut it off, so revenge is on the cards. Dillman was equally offbeat, with one of the strangest (if quietest) laughs in screen villainy, apparently based on his newborn baby, but Harris was the real bonus here, managing to make this almost seem reasonable as the bullets flew and the audiences scratched their heads. It was too randomly assembled to be judged a true achievement, but for aficionados of the outré, this came recommended.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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John Frankenheimer  (1930 - 2002)

American director, from television, who really shone in the sixties with intelligent suspense movies and dramas like Birdman of Alcatraz, The Manchurian Candidate, The Train, Seven Days in May, Seconds and Grand Prix, but lost his touch from the seventies onward, with titles like The Iceman Cometh, 99 and 44/100% Dead, Black Sunday, Prophecy, The Holcroft Covenant, 52 Pick-Up, Dead Bang and The Island of Dr Moreau standing out, not always for the right reasons. Thriller Ronin was his swan song.

 
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