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April 19, 2006

Sam Whiskey



Arnold Laven - 1969
MGM Region 1 DVD

Today's entry is part of an Angie Dickinson blog-a-thon. Other links are to be found at Flickhead and Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.

While Sam Whiskey is primarily a vehicle for then-rising star Burt Reynolds, it is also significant in terms of Angie Dickinson's career. The screenplay is by William Norton. Five years later, Norton wrote the cult favorite Big Bad Mama, one of the few films featuring Dickinson as the title character. The film is also the first to take advantage of the new ratings code, allowing Angie Dickinson's fans to see what they could only previously imagine.

Like most of the films she was in, Angie Dickinson's role here is small, but pivotal. She portrays the widow of a man who stole gold bars from the Denver Mint sometime around the period of the Civil War. Reynolds, along with Ossie Davis and Clint Walker, have taken the job of retrieving the gold bars and sneaking them back into the mint in place of the gold painted lead bars. It's a preposterous plot, but a relatively entertaining hour and a half. As someone who has lived in Denver for most of my life, I didn't mind too much that the nothing in the film resembled Colorado or the pictures I've seen of early Denver, and I've walked by the Denver Mint many times.

Part of what makes Sam Whiskey an amiable diversion is the direction of Arnold Laven. While most of his work has been in television, Laven has made some stylish, economically shot films. In addition to the wonderfully titled Monster that Challenged the World, the minor classic Slaughter on Tenth Avenue is most in need of a DVD release. Laven has also collaborated with Sam Peckinpah, both on the beloved television series, The Rifleman and the Peckinpah scripted The Glory Guys. Laven and company also were responsible for Geronimo, infamous for jokes about Native Americans jumping out of airplanes, shouting "Chuck Connors".

Laven is artistically ambitious, using framing devices like bed frames and branches in many of the shots. The break-in isn't quite Rififfi but Reynolds and company are seen trying to operate silently, avoiding noisy disaster.

Burt and Angie had a cinematic reunion with a film called The Maddening in 1995, but I'm sure they would prefer you saw them when they were young and pretty.

Posted by peter at April 19, 2006 12:01 AM


Okay, Peter, on the strength of that first screen grab alone, Sam Whiskey is now head of the pack on my Netflix queue. Thanks for pointing me toward this one, and for taking part in celebrating this lovely actress. (And for reminding me about Arnold Laven.) I like the fact that we can take time to expand the boundaries of the blog-a-thon concept to include appreciations like the one we're gearing up for today, or Brian Darr's proposed Friz Freleng-a-thon, to stand right beside our more esoteric or analytical endeavors. There's nothing wrong with throwing the spotlight on a little beauty.

Posted by: Dennis Cozzalio at April 19, 2006 03:54 AM

Peter, I wish I could agree with you on SAM WHISKEY. It seems to me one of her most mannered performances, a parody of kittenish sexiness, when she didn't have to do anything to be sexy but just, well, be. I think Burt was better at that kind of comic sexiness than she was. Still, it's worth seeing for those very screen grabs you posted above!

Posted by: tlrhb at April 19, 2006 10:28 AM

When you say "allowing Angie Dickinson's fans to see what they could only previously imagine", do you mean that the new freedoms of the 60s, especially radical (for their time) ideas about the social position of women, allowed Ms Dickinson to open up fresh possibilities as a serious actress, beyond the "decorative blonde" roles she's played up to that point?

Or do you mean she gets her boobies out?

Posted by: Cultural Snow at April 20, 2006 07:27 AM